With 62% of shares in the National Bank of Iraq (NBI) and a presence in the Dubai International Financial Center, Amman-based Capital Bank is carving out a niche to act as a truly regional bank. Bassem Khalil Al-Salem, Chairman of Capital Bank, reflects why he is upbeat about Iraq’s future and how his bank is already prepared to help bring business back to the nation.
How do you stand out in the Jordanian banking sector?
With over €2.3 billion in assets and two decades of expertise, Capital Bank has secured a unique position in the national banking sector, positioning itself as a national player that is heavily invested in the development of the local economy. Through its established presence in Iraq, UAE and Jordan, the bank has brought considerable exposure to global investors that wish to venture into the regional market.
What best defines the bank’s “unique” position?
At its core, Capital Bank’s distinct function is to provide an ideal gateway for investments in the region, specifically in the Iraqi market, and in an increasingly international marketplace, bringing European investments to Jordan. We have set a clear focus on cross-border business flows, and we aim to continuously grow our existing activates in both Iraq and the UAE.
How is the bank well equipped to handle Iraqi business?
We’re the only Jordanian bank with an established presence in Iraq through the National Bank of Iraq (NBI). We bring the advantage of great dialogue with the Iraqi government, along with deep market insight that dates back over a decade. NBI’s presence in the market serves as our eyes and ears in a rapidly growing and versatile market, enabling us to form a clearer picture of existing opportunities. Through our exposure, we believe that a number of opportunities will surface on the back of the upcoming wave of regulatory transformation. We have set ambitious plans for Iraq and are prepared to fulfill our critical role in the economy by introducing new financial solutions and services.
What is your personal outlook for Iraq’s future?
Albeit at a slow pace, reconstruction activities are taking place in Iraq with hopes of reviving the national economy. Economic activity is expected to take off and signs of government investments are evident in the streets of Mosul and Baghdad. I believe that the country holds great promise for investors, with a burgeoning oil industry, considerable natural resources, and educated population, and a thriving youth community with plenty of potential.
Are Jordanian banks equipped to handle the regional infrastructure demand?
Jordanian banks are sufficiently capitalized, with a total asset base representing over 175% of the country’s GDP. Jordan has also been a country of choice for major financial institutions, including EBRD, Proparco and the IFC, whom have played a key role in financing large infrastructure projects alongside local investors and financial institutions.
Why is now an important time to begin investing in the region’s recovery?
In general, sentiments regarding the Middle East are improving; relatively easing political tension and stabilizing oil prices leave outlooks for the region leaning to the upside. It is time to transform what was once deemed a challenge into an opportunity, and Capital Bank is prepared to act as the ideal gateway.