Nozad Dawood Fattah Al-Jaff, Chairman of North Bank
, says that banking in Iraq has undergone a sea change since 2003, when private sector banking burst onto the scene. Since then, according to the chairman of what is today one of the most reputable banks in the country, many new financial institutions have experienced a series of stops and starts as the burgeoning industry blossomed beyond their capacity – growing pains that North Bank
managed to avoid.
“We are now one of the most diversified banks in Iraq, with approximately 8% of our shareholders from NYSE and hedge funds from Finland, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the Emirates and other parts of the world.”
Nozad Dawood Fattah Al-jaff,
Chairman of North Bank
“Private banking in Iraq is new because up until 2003 we had a completely socialist system. After 2003, a lot of steps were taken to encourage the private sector. Banks were opened by people here with the resources to do so. The capital was quite modest though, and little by little they realized that these were not family businesses that they could manage. They then tried to diversify their shareholders, but a lot of them did not want to relinquish control so they remained small,” he explains.
Founded in April 2004 by a number of prominent shareholders, many of whom were established businessmen throughout the region, North Bank
“never took this approach,” and has been successfully targeting the private sector for the past eight years. Mr. Al-Jaff continues: “We are now one of the most diversified banks in Iraq, with approximately 8% of our shareholders from NYSE and hedge funds from Finland, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, the Emirates and other parts of the world.”North Bank
’s success in building its business was reflected in the 45% increase in deposits it registered in the first half of this year, bringing total deposits to 917 billion Iraqi Dinars ($787 million). Lending was also up by 27%, with corporate loans representing roughly 80% of this.
In addition to specializing in SME loans ranging from $100,000 to $500,000, the bank also does significant business with international companies operating in the Iraqi oil sector and other industries.
“There are other international companies like Samsung, Nokia and Kodak, that deal with us because they need a way to transfer their money in and out of the country so they use our services,” Mr. Al-Jaff says. In addition to a range of traditional retail products, these services include accounts in both Iraqi dinars and U.S. dollars, as well as loans in both currencies, and the issuance of internal and external guarantee letters for both currencies.
With paid-up capital of 210 billion Iraqi dinars ($180 million), making it the most well-capitalized bank in Iraq, North Bank
today boasts 17 branches across the country, including Baghdad. It also has four branches in Kurdistan in Erbil, Duhok, Suleymaniyah and Kirkuk.
“The majority of our large shareholders are of Kurdish origin, but we have a very good relationship with Baghdad. I believe we have a great deal of potential and eventually we would like to be recognized as one of the largest financial institutions in the region,” concludes the chairman, adding that investors looking to the regional market should wait no longer. “Don’t miss out – be a pioneer.”