CAIRO: Dubai’s largest private bank Mashreq officially launched its retail operations in Egypt Wednesday.
The bank, which has divisions throughout the Gulf and has corporate banking operations in several nations around the world, is making its first retail foray into the developing world.
Mashreq opens with LE 560 million ($99.4 million) dedicated to its Egyptian operations.
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO of Mashreq, announced the opening at the bank’s headquarters in Heliopolis.
“My pledge to you as CEO, he told reporters, “is to build on our heritage of success in order to make a lasting contribution to the growth of the Egyptian economy.
The current CEO’s father founded Mashreq in 1967, and the bank has grown by leaps and bounds since, now with total assets topping 93 billion dirhams.
It offers its retail services in the UAE, Qatar, and Bahrain, with Kuwait and Egypt coming online this year.
“Our vision is to become MENA’s own leading regional bank, said John Iossifidis, Mashreq’s executive vice president and head of international banking.
“Quite simply, our strategy is to expand organically and selectively in the region while continuing to invest in our core franchises and building on longstanding strengths, he added.
Mashreq began formulating its plans to grow throughout the region before the onset of the global economic crisis. Though the bank isn’t backing off its plans, executives acknowledge that they may proceed more gingerly through these uncertain waters.
“Our vision and strategic plan for the region as a whole, including Egypt, was developed during times of unparalleled economic growth, said Iossifidis.
“Now, our vision remains unchanged but the current global economic climate has necessitated that we revisit our strategy for how we will achieve this and in this regard, we will be adopting a more balanced and responsible approach.
Despite assertions that it is scaling back, the bank announced that it will have 11 branches online in Cairo and Alexandria by the end of this year. Its aim is to have 30 branches in place by 2013, adding five branches per year beginning in 2010.
Both Al Ghurair and Iossifidis were quick to discuss the potential for growth in the Egyptian market as a primary reason for their choosing to open shop here.
“We are making a strategic choice, said Al Ghurair, “[Egypt] has a great potential.
They both noted that only a small portion of Egypt’s population is banked.
They also pointed out that the country is disproportionately young and that income per capita continues to grow.
All of these things, they argued, made for a terrific investment opportunity.
Al Ghurair also pointed several times to the Egyptian government reform program as evidence that the government is serious about attracting foreign companies.
“We also trust that the Egyptian government’s continuing reforms, which were implemented and are planned in the near future, will allow Egypt to stay the course and withstand any market fluctuations in the future, he said.
In addition to its efforts to make inroads to Egypt’s vast, untapped market, Mashreq has also announced its intentions to target high net worth individuals through a program it calls Mashreq Gold.
The first Gold center is at the country headquarters in Heliopolis, with four more to open later this year.
Mashreq Gold, according to a statement released by the bank, is “a comprehensive financial management service that targets VIP clients.
It “offers a wide range of exclusive benefits and services that will assist clients in planning their financial goals.
Mashreq swims against the stream as it launches an ambitious new venture at a time when companies are shutting down operations right and left. And with so many financial analysts extolling Egypt’s resilience during the economic crisis, Al Ghurair and his team may have picked the right country.