Interview with Mohamed Mellousse, Founder & CEO, Wifak International Bank
What initiatives do you feel have contributed to your growth and success?
There are several success factors that have contributed to the growth and success of Wifak International Bank, including:
- The background acquired following its transformation from a leasing company to a full-fledged bank operating in compliance with the Islamic Finance principles;
- The quality of its diversified, reference and trusted shareholders;
- The importance of Islamic Finance, as a magnet for foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as a vector of economic development that complements the conventional banking sector’s offer.
- The Tunisian Government has confirmed its interest in Islamic finance through its project to adapt the current regulatory framework
- Its regular and thorough research for the introduction of new technologies and the launch of innovative products tailored to customer needs (cash management, short term financing, investment, equipment, etc.);
- Good communication, excellent customer relations as well as social tools are at the basis of its strategy;
- Its strategic location: Wifak Bank is the unique bank in Tunisia having a head office located in the south of the country in order to assert its presence in the interior regions;
- Capitalization on the interior regions which are a priority area through the implementation of major structuring projects, able to attract investment and initiate dynamics of production and wealth creation;
- Loyalty of its customers who previously did not wish to use full-fledged financial institutions because of their religious beliefs (Latent demand from a large segment of Tunisian society, particularly in the interior regions where Wifak Bank is well established).
What are the advantages to Sharia compliant banking?
We offer financing solutions which are suitable for the different business cycles of our customers in order to ensure their financial balance. In this context, the granted financing is based on fixed rates materialized by the repayment of constant repayments (as soon as the contract is signed) which allows the customer to avoid market rate risk.
In addition, Islamic finance helps customers hedge against exchange rate fluctuations by fixing the value of imports upon arrival of the goods.
The value date is also a key element and a comparative advantage offered to our customers especially to corporate customers.
The value date of financial transactions, in terms of withdrawal and payment of funds, aims to be synchronized with the effective date of the transaction, which allows the customer to manage his funds comfortably without incurring additional fees and taxes. In fact, the value date corresponds to the transaction date.
Indeed, these three advantages allow corporate customers to better determine their costs by reducing their financial expenses, which are determined in advance and not at the end of the fiscal year.
In your opinion, what are the current challenges facing Islamic Banking for corporate clients?
The main challenges faced by Islamic banks with corporate clients are:
- The financing types granted to them;
- Some products and services unavailable in Islamic banks to perfectly satisfied the needs of customers;
- In its modern and recent conception, Islamic finance requires a perfect management of all its operations by the Bank’s staff;
- The establishment of the culture of Islamic Finance among our corporate customers through promoting its benefits and principles;
- The challenges of the competition that has been established for years;
- The divergence of the Shariaa opinions on both National and International level;
- The country’s legislation is not generally adapted to financial institutions operating according to the Islamic finance’ principles;
- Security of investments, transparency as well as traceability of operations;
- Development of tailored products;
- The digital transformation of the bank to offer a service and digital means suitable to the customers and to the evolution of the market.
Let’s talk for a minute about product development.
Considering the young age of our bank on the Tunisian Financial market and the Islamic finance sector in particular, as well as today’s fast-changing environment where new technologies play a dominant role, product development remains at the heart of the bank’s expansion.
Indeed, Wifak Bank has implemented a dedicated structure for competitive intelligence and listening to customers in order to anticipate their needs and implement tailored products to meet their expectations. Furthermore, our Bank not only started its business with a full range of products and services, but also continued the creation of new products.
What drives product creation at Wifak International Bank?
Product creation is made to meet the customers’ needs, to build long-term loyalty and to make the customer banking relationship a strong and lasting partnership.
It’s worth to mention that Wifak bank is an avant-garde Bank because of its commitment to anticipate as well as update the customer’s needs through the financial standards and the up-to-date technologies
According to Wifak Bank’s values, Customers are at the centre of attention of the bank “Customer Centric” therefore the improvement of the customer experience, the facilitation of access to information and products and services is an axis of capitalization.
What role does technology play?
One of the Wifak Bank’s performance levers is its human capital. In fact, the young human resources within the bank lead us to adopt the latest technologies in terms of information, processing and communication.
Technology is at the heart of Wifak Bank’s strategy. Indeed, the role played by technology within Wifak Bank materializes through:
- Improving the quality of service;
- Improving operational efficiency;
- The control of costs;
- The retention(Loyalty) of customer.
The technology will also contribute to facilitate communication between the customer and the bank, to circulate useful information between all the economic entities involved, or to create new channels.
What are some of the value-added services available to corporate clients?
The value-added services offered to Wifak Bank’s corporate clients in order to achieve their financial balance are mainly:
- The appropriate advice by technicians specialized in Islamic finance to respond to the corporate customer’s needs,
- Tailored customers support: our salesman made efforts to support our customer and meet their needs anywhere and at any time.
- Timeliness in the processing of files that will allow the client to save time and honour its commitments with respect to third parties (suppliers, vis-à-vis, customers, etc.);
- Financial engineering is at the disposal of our corporate clients to provide financial and legal solutions according to the standards of Islamic finance;
- Innovative products such as WAAD which allows to hedge against currency risk or the bond issue according to the techniques of Islamic finance;
- Digital services such as Internet Banking and Mobile Banking.
How do you ensure service quality for new and existing customers?
The quality of service provided by Wifak Bank is a strategic axis in order to respond effectively to customer’s requirements, we have implemented:
- A listening unit (by phone, email and even face to face);
- A customer information reliability unit for adapted and personalized communication;
- Regular customer visits;
- An application to manage customer complaints;
- Internal service agreements in order to meet deadlines with a better quality of service.
- Continuous training for front office staff.
Do you currently have any promotions available to customers you would like to share with us?
Currently we are promoting IJARA financing products through a partnership with a car dealer, a 360 communication campaign, attractive conditions for customers, reduced processing times and gifts.
How is Wifak Bank addressing the needs of clients as a result of the current pandemic?
During this Covid-19 health crisis, Wifak Bank strengthened its commitment to support its customers with a set of concrete measures.
These measures allowed the Bank to better respond to the requirements of our customers through tailored solutions in terms of financing and support, in order to encourage the recovery of activity in this exceptional situation.
To reach the objective, Wifak Bank has allocated a substantial budget for Mourabha & IJARA financing, to meet short and medium term cash needs and to redevelop existing financing.
The management of the health crisis within Wifak Bank has enabled it to better convey its values as an innovative Islamic bank and which advocates the client’s position at the centre of the institution’s interests as well as the commitment of its collaborators to support their customers on daily basis.
What are your future plans for development?
As part of the growth prospects of World Islamic Finance, which has become an essential financial approach attracting more and more economic players (estimated at more than 20% per year), Wifak International Bank, as its name suggests, a bank that aims to be international, foresees in its development plan the establishment of partnerships and fundraising from international institutions to export its savoir-faire and its brand abroad.
The strategic vision of the bank which aims to develop its activity revolves around several axes, among which we can mention the following:
- Improving operational efficiency and service delivery;
- The development of the network through geographical coverage by adopting a strategy of implementation based on the spider’s web system;
- Diversification of the offer of innovative products and services to be differentiated from the competition;
- The strengthening of the customer proximity, their conquest and their equipment: Enlargement of the professional business as well as capitalization on all the trades especially our corporate customers who are the spearhead of our activity;
- The digital transformation, whose main objective is to put technological opportunities at the service of business challenges and, consequently, create a digital ecosystem to provide added value, which will be rewarded by market share. This strategic vision revolves around a global transformation of the bank’s operating model, policies and culture based on new technologies.
Global Banking & Finance Review
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