National Bank of Bahrain (NBB), majority-owned by the government, has ramped up its investment banking business as it aims to get advisory roles on a pipeline of national projects worth over $30bn, the bank’s chief executive said.
NBB has created an institutional banking department as part of an internal reorganisation begun last year, which separated its unit focused on retail and small and medium enterprises from its corporate banking business.
“We have now debt capital markets and syndication specialists, structured finance specialists, coverage dedicated to large counterparties, to ensure that we not only lend but that we have a whole range of products, such as advisory, structuring and risk management,” Jean-Christophe Durand, NBB’s chief executive, told Reuters in an interview this week.
Bahrain has a pipeline of large-scale infrastructure developments whose value is estimated at more than $32bn, which will be funded by both the government and the private sector.
“There will be a lot of projects in Bahrain. In the past as a national bank we would probably be asked at some stage to lend some money. In the future, I would like the bank to be much more proactive, to be more – from the beginning – advising, structuring, distributing, and have a much more investment banking approach,” Durand said.
The bank, which also has a presence in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is looking to increase its investment banking operations in those countries, too, he said.
Durand joined NBB as chief executive at the end of 2016. He was the Middle East and Africa head of BNP Paribas before that.
NBB posted a net profit of 61 million dinars ($161.89 million) in 2017, up from 58.2 million one year earlier.
“We have put in place a three-year development plan, and we expect 2018 to continue growth,” Durand said.
NBB is not in talks about any potential merger or acquisition, but it is open to potential opportunities.
“In our three-year strategy plan we have internal growth and we’re open to external growth whenever complimentary,” Durand said. “It’s not necessarily consolidation, could be complementary, such as adding a new business. We’re open because that’s an area of growth.”