Credibility and Trust at BNF Bank
1. What can you tell us about the history and heritage of BNF Bank?
2021 marks the fifth anniversary since, JUD Investment Group, a subsidiary of Al Faisal Holding Group, acquired 75% of what previously known as Banif Bank (Malta) which started operations in 2008. Through Rights Issues this ownership has subsequently increased to 92.4%. The injection of new capital has been pivotal to the Bank's new strategy. Now operating as BNF Bank, we have built on the solid foundations that were already present and evolved into an enriched brand with a new identity. We have retained our core values of credibility and trust that have become synonymous with BNF over the past decade. It is through these values that we have manged to carve a successful niche in the local community. We now operate 12 branches across Malta and Gozo, a dedicated Corporate Business Office and recently opened our first overseas branch in London.
Our successful growth trajectory has been recognised when we were bestowed the coveted Bank of the Year Malta Award for 2020 by The Banker, an international specialised publication by the influential Financial Times.
2. What distinguishes BNF from other Banks and what innovation initiatives have you contributed to in your tenure as BNF Bank CEO & Managing Director?
The key to BNF's success in recent years has been placing the customer at the centre of everything we do while constantly challenging ourselves to ensure that we are serving and providing real value and support to the communities in which we operate. Our customer centric approach, both for personal and corporate clients, is focused on providing a suite of products which addresses clients' needs throughout life's or business' journey. We thrive on holding meaningful conversations with our clients, helping each other building a new future. By understanding our customers' needs we can seek to strengthen our products, our efficiency, and the experience of banking with BNF.
Investment in electronic channels is also considered as a building block contributing directly to the Bank's growth strategy. We are continuously developing our technological capabilities, with a vision of consolidating our position as a relevant player to our customers. Our strategy is to become a more efficient organisation that can adapt and serve customers through a multi-channel model. With the aim of having the right product range, we've tried our best to develop a top-class range of products.
Since I joined the Bank in 2017 there hasn't been a single period where adaptation and doing the basics well weren't required - from upgrading our ATM network, to investing in Express Deposit Machines, to opening our first branch in London. We are not standing still as we are embarking on our core banking system transformation which will lay the foundations of our digital proposition.
3. What are BNF's main achievements so far during the years of operation in Malta?
Individuals, SMEs, family businesses and corporate customers are not a mere number to us, and that is why we have managed to carve a lasting relationship with our loyal customers while attracting new ones who see BNF Bank as innovative and above all true to the promise of service personalisation. Our long-term strategic objective is to strengthen our position and continue reinforcing our values whilst ensuring our responsiveness to future trends and challenges.
4. The Banking industry is hugely unpredictable, how has BNF embraced the changes and used them to its advantage while tailoring its offering for both personal and business needs?
Prior to the pandemic, Malta's GDP growth rate has been quite strong by European standards and this has clearly helped all banks put volume through their balance sheet. For us it has always been about growing in a sustainable and controlled manner through adopting a risk-based approach which is acceptable to the various stakeholders for the benefit of our clients. Competitive value-added propositions have driven an increase in our customer base, both in personal and corporate banking as we gradually keep on moving towards attracting higher value loans and family businesses.
Despite being one of the smaller banks competing in a context of rigorous regulation and constant change, we've gone from strength to strength through customer-centric operations, a focus on people and constant efforts to streamline processes for maximum efficiency to serve clients in the best way possible.
5. In banking and financial sectors, are there innovative products being developed that meet the risks and challenges of today's global economy? How important is it to consistently be ahead of the curve in this regard under the COVID-19 pandemic?
In the first half of 2020 as the pandemic was sweeping through Europe, we took a number of notable steps to ensure financial and economic stability for companies facing financial hardships. While traditional business traits are still important, being adaptive to change is a crucial attribute with the constant changes in technology, regulation, and consumer behaviour. The coming year will no doubt have its own challenges and opportunities, but we are confident that we can keep adapting as our customers need us to.
6. How critical is the Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) efforts to BNF Bank?
By working with government, regulators, the industry and our customers to embrace a green economy, we can also help lay the foundations for a prosperous and vibrant economy for the years to come. Our target is to fulfil our own ESG function in terms of supporting the cause of private sector interests in rendering Malta a better place to do business and in so doing generating better lives for its people.
Always attentive to our carbon footprint, we regularly review our purchasing policies, our physical infrastructures and our impact on the environment. We strongly believe in our responsibility to share in the community's development and values.
7. How has the Bank's corporate social responsibility strategy changed over the years and which are the main areas of focus for BNF?
Since inception, we focused our commitment to contribute to key areas where we operate in, which allowed for the continuous implementation of our CSR strategy built on five main pillars: education, health, environment, philanthropy together with culture and heritage. In all our CSR activities we embrace our core values of ambition, responsibility and empathy.
As a team at BNF, employees and management get together in unison to try to make life a little bit better to those in need and be at the forefront to safeguard the environment and heritage to be enjoyed by future generations.
8. You've been awarded Bank of the Year 2020 in Malta, why do you think this award is important and how does it really reflect the ethos of what the company is really all about and what it is doing?
This award neatly reflects the importance given to four solid operational value-added elements - a focused banking model, a personalised customer service, a visible and trustworthy brand that has gone from strength to strength, and the enthusiasm and perseverance of the team. Being recognised by a reputable publication for our efforts and results is a remarkable achievement and we are thankful and proud to share this success with our clients and employees.
Apart from the award, I'm particularly proud of the resilience, empathy and flexibility that our staff have shown in providing the appropriate level of service while safeguarding the health and well-being of our employees throughout these past challenging months.
9. Do you think there is a good and favourable understanding as to the important role that BNF Bank plays in the local banking sector and what are the key industries/objectives that you primarily focus on?
We insist on the highest level of good conduct that aligns the interests of all stakeholders and gives a solid contribution to the local economy through the application of cautious banking policies. Our reputation has solidified through transparency, engagement in the community and the delivery of excellence in our service to clients and customer experience. Our aim has always been to accelerate our growth with a focus on understanding the needs of every individual client and optimising Malta's geographic location to attract more business and increase revenue streams.
Personal customer lifecycle and current trends in business requirements offering a wide range of services to retail, SME and corporate customers, lay at the core of our operations with retail customers accounting to circa 60% of our asset and profitability with the rest generated by the corporate segment. Our main core products are Home Loan Solutions, Personal Loans and credit facilities to local businesses supported by a range of deposit products.
We always ensure that our clients have a clear understanding of who we are, what we offer and how we can be their bank of choice for their financial needs.
10. Finally, what are the aspirations and plans for the future for BNF Bank, and where does your vision come in all of this?
The Bank has significant expansion plans both locally and internationally and I believe that with the right people who form part of the BNF team, we can keep on building on our recent successes. We will surely continue to invest in our human resources, infrastructure and products to ensure that we're the bank of choice for our customers.
My vision, which is also shared by my colleagues within the Executive Committee, is to remain a valued member of the community and be relevant to the evolving needs of our customers as they choose us as their banking partner, whilst we continue providing an impeccable service throughout.