In the 17 years since Societe Generale de Banque – Jordanie opened in Jordan, it has kept client satisfaction as its main objective, as it does in the other 76 countries worldwide in which it operates. This is the case whether their client is corporate or an individual, and the bank has comprehensive and diverse plans for each to fit their needs and the needs of the market.
SGBJ is part of Societe Generale de Banque Au Liban Group (SGBL); the Lebanon-based regional financial services group, which in itself is an affiliate of one of the largest financial institutions worldwide Société Générale Group (SG).
In Jordan, SGBJ operates as a universal bank, offering top tier services to public sector corporations, multinationals, local companies, SMEs and individuals, in addition to micro-finance companies involved in local development.
Venture spoke with SGBJ’s CEO Nadim Abaouat to discuss the bank’s decision to invest in Jordan, the challenges and successes in the years that followed, as well as where the bank sees itself in 5 years time.
It has been 17 years since Societe Generale entered the Jordanian market; what opportunities did you see in this market that didn’t exist elsewhere?
SGBL’s investment in SGBJ dates back to 1999, when the group saw, as part of its regional expansion, Jordan as an important business hub. In recent years the group showed increased interest in the Jordanian market, not only because it believes that Jordan has strong potential for growth, offering valuable new business development opportunities, but also because it considers Jordan as a secure gateway to business with neighboring countries, with Jordan seen as a preferred venue for many international companies eager to engage in the reconstruction of the region.
Besides, the financial sector is a main driver for economic growth in Jordan and one of the main pillars in the economy that is very well regulated by the Central Bank of Jordan, highly capitalized and shows strong resilience.
What of those opportunities have you managed to realize?
SGBJ started as a boutique bank focusing on corporate lending for key elite clients. Today, SGBJ is a universal bank offering a wide array of retail, private, SME and corporate banking services. The bank’s capital doubled between 2011 and 2012 and the balance sheet more than tripled since 2011.
2013 also marked the relocation of the bank’s head offices to the Abdali Development Project. This, together with network expansion, the renovation and relocation of some branches to more vital, visible and accessible locations in addition to more intense marketing campaigns has improved the bank’s image and increased its name recognition, positioning SGBJ as an important player in the Jordanian banking sector.
What have been the most notable challenges that you faced as a bank in your time here?
Severe competition is one of the biggest challenges faced by the banks operating in the Kingdom. The sector currently consists of 25 banks, including 13 local commercial banks, 8 foreign banks, 3 Jordanian Islamic banks and 1 foreign Islamic branch, with two large banks dominating about one-third of the market and the other small and medium sized banks striving to augment their market shares.
Offering good service and introducing innovative products that meet customers’ needs is key. Moreover, leveraging technology to make financial services more efficient and inclusive is also a growing trend. With only 24.6% of Jordanians holding accounts at financial institutions, penetration is low and considerable opportunity exists to serve the unbanked and under-banked.
Where are your activities concentrated in the corporate sector? What activities or sectors would you like to expand into?
At SGBJ, we manage our efforts to concentrate on the main economic sectors including trading, wholesale and manufacturing as broad lines.
On a corporate level, we deal with the traditional family businesses, multinational institutions and the public sector. In parallel, we are currently expanding into the SME sector and we are in the process of establishing a dedicated SME unit to cater to the SME client needs. We believe that the growth of the SME sector is focal to the Jordanian economy and is considered one of the major fundamental success factors of the nation’s welfare.
How does the bank service corporations and individuals looking to invest?
At SGBJ we have business teams dedicated to servicing different clients’ needs whether corporations or individuals from the initial inception of their project, until full implementation. Dedicated specialized relationship managers are ready to service the clients as financial consultants starting from the introduction of the banking relationship until either successful implementation of credit facilities or the completion of the account opening process. In other words, our dedicated relationship manager serves as the point of contact to facilitate the clients’ needs and expectations.
Moreover, we have a brokerage company owned by SGBJ with certified brokers ready to service clients’ investments in the local financial market.
Are there plans to expand your retail banking offerings in terms of number of branches and geographical spread?
SGBJ is planning to expand further in terms of number of branches as well as offsite ATMs in addition to continuing with relocating some of the existing branches to better and more lively locations. The aim is to ensure customer satisfaction and comfort as well as offering higher quality service.
SGBJ currently has a wide geographical spread as it established a network of 17 branches covering Amman and the main governorates. It has plans for ongoing growth by opening more branches in the coming years.
Where do you see SGBJ in 5 years?
We have been achieving high growth rates in the past three years. Our aim is to continue grasping market share through offering a unique quality of service and maintaining a high level of satisfaction for our customers.
We are investing in a new core banking system that will allow us to cope with the advanced technologies needed for the future, and we will keep developing innovative products.
We hope to see SGBJ in 5 years as one of the top players in the sector.
This is part three of a nine-piece story. Other pieces include:
For Part Four, click here.