Nevine Loutfy; The Lady of Banking
Published Thursday, 09 August 2012 13:31 | Written by Amwal Al Ghad
Nevine Loutfy has been the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of The National Bank For Development (NBD) since 2007. With over three decades of banking experience, Loutfy has a diverse background and has worked across the corporate, SME and retail sectors. She has extensive international experience gained in the US, Europe and emerging markets, with primary areas of expertise being Local Corporate and SME business management, in addition to Credit Risk and Capital management.
Composed and elegantly selecting her words, Loutfy perhaps embodies a true banker, though not conventional. The image of an uptight senior corporate manager dressed in plain black and white doesn’t quite fit this CEO. On this occasion, the executive was dressed in a red pantsuit, expressing her views sharply and wittingly. She maintains the perfect balance between approachable and professional, attentive as she searches her desk and explains in detail how interest rates on foreign currencies work.
She is a Member of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. Ms. Loutfy holds a BA Economics from the American University in Cairo.
Loutfy joins NBD from Citigroup's EMEA Commercial Bank in London where she most recently held the position of Chief Operating Officer, Managing Director and Business Senior Credit Officer. Ms. Loutfy serves as Acting Chairman of The National Bank for Development and serves as its Director.
Loutfy began her banking career with Citibank in March 1976 where she joined the Cairo office as a Financial Analyst.
The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) for the Middle East and North Africa region has recently honored on May 17th Nevine Loutfy for winning Best Woman in the Corporate Sector as part of its Annual MENA award program that recognizes pioneering women in the corporate world. Loutfy received the award at a ceremony held in Tunisia by the American Chamber of Commerce in the presence of candidates from 6 Arab countries: Tunisia, UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco.
The AmCham Women Award recognizes pioneering women from the Middle East and the North Africa region, whose achievements have set the benchmark in their respective fields in the Arab world and who have demonstrated strong dedication with outstanding contributions to their institutions towards tangible success that reflects positively on the economies of these countries as the region begins to recover from the implications of the Arab Spring. AmCham has set strict conditions and criteria for the award winner, including a strong commitment to work, holding a leading position in the organization or company to which they belong, achieving outstanding contributions in their field with a positive impact on the sector in which they operate, assisting in developing employee skills, having full integrity and innovation in operation.
Commenting on the award, Nevine Loutfy stated, "First and foremost I would like to thank everyone who has nominated me for the award and I dedicate it to all women in the Arab world and Africa. This valuable award increases my sense of responsibility towards work and encourages me to continue to exert exceptional effort. I would also like to thank all my colleagues in NDB and ADIB for their efforts and committed contributions in the development and transformation of the bank to reach its current position"
She stressed, "Our communities are in need of sincere efforts that help boost development during this critical stage as we overcome the implications of the events witnessed by the region. This requires all community members to exert more effort in their work and encourages the active participation of women to positively yield in all economic, social and political fields."
Nevine Loutfy has received this award for her efforts in her current position since 2008 as Managing Director, CEO and acting Chairman of the National Bank for Development, through which she is leading the development process of the bank and transforming it into a fully Islamic Shari'a compliant institution. . Additionally, she plays an active role in strengthening its position as a financial institution that places customer needs at the top of its priorities.
Nevine Loutfy is leading the restructuring of the bank through a well-balanced strategic plan that aims to increase its market share and reinforce its financial position. She also contributed strongly to developing and strengthening the bank's infrastructure as well as developing its network of 70 branches spread across the country. Moreover, she constantly stresses the importance of human resources as a key element and major factor in the success of the institutional work, which is reflected in her commitment to enhance and improve the skills of employees in line with the latest technology and banking techniques to create a modern Shari'a compliant banking model in the Egyptian banking market. As a result, for the second consecutive year, the bank received the "Best Islamic Bank in Egypt" award through a global survey for the best Islamic banks conducted by Islamic Finance New (IFN) in December 2011.
An essential cornerstone in Nevine Loutfy's working policy is her keenness to meet the demands of existing customers and attract a wide range of new customers through the launch of innovative banking products that cater to their diverse needs and that are compliant with the principles of Islamic Shari'a.
Before January 25
Loutfy is happy with the banking sector’s overall performance in the second half of 2010, not to mention NBD’s performance.
“We were very close as far as the financial results were concerned to our objectives,” says Loutfy.
It isn’t just NBD that performed well, Loutfy calls the 2010 banking performance “fantastic, excellent. It was very solid.”
Despite 2010 being only two years past the financial crisis, Loutfy believes the banking sector remained intact, and managed to enhance its performance in 2010.
“A lot of the banks were making a lot of money and there was a lot of competition going on,” says Loutfy. “There was growth and all these syndications that you saw. There were a lot of infrastructure projects as well and banks were contributing very positively [to these projects].”
She adds that these syndications were often over-subscribed, and consumer banking and deposits were growing steadily. More customers adopted banking services and the sector continued to grow, including in the use of ATMs and credit cards.
Robbery in Egypt
But things didn’t go as planned, not for NBD, not for other banks.
“This year we were really ready to take off, it was the take off year and in January we were on great trajectory,” says Loutfy. “Then there were interruptions for about two months. March was really slow, April was slow and sort of struggling to inch up, and then May was good.”
Loutfy tells it like it is — she explains that NBD, like other banks, had to tweak its objectives for 2011, not only to accommodate for the days of shutdown, but also due to the overall economic slowdown.
Banks will not pick up where they left off prior to January 25. “Banks are intermediary, they don’t start the economy, they are enablers. A lot of things didn’t pick up, a lot of loans are being re-scheduled out in the market so a lot of the banks are distracted by this.”
Loutfy explains that there are many other obstacles facing the banking sector now, including the on-going investigations coupled with an overall state of cautiousness in an attempt to see the status of each sector in the medium term. She adds that the performance of the banking sector slowed down in relation to the economy while other sectors came to a complete halt.
“Real estate stopped completely, banks are no longer doing any real estate until things [are] clear and we have new laws and see what the guidelines will look like and so on,” says Loutfy.
Another sector that has been hurt was industrial production, having dropped by 50% and exports, decreasing by 40%.
“All this has to have an impact on how much growth there is,” says Loutfy. “This impacts on the turnover you can have, because you are an enabler, [therefore] the activity has to happen first.”
It isn’t all bad though, Loutfy explains, consumers have almost returned to the pre-revolutionary banking and financial activities, but they aren’t quite yet there. She expects that it will take a year before things can go back to normal.
She posits that policies adopted by the Central Bank prevented a financial disaster from occurring. The ceiling of $100,000 (LE 596,000) put on money safeguarded banks and the economy in general from “frenzied and irrational behavior” where people withdraw or transfer their money out of Egypt in a state of panic, says Loutfy.
What January 25 Meant To Banks
For years customers opted to save in Egyptian pounds as it yielded higher interest rates than foreign currency deposits.
But after January 25, this changed, with patterns evolving in customers’ habits.
“After the events of January 25, there was a surge of dollarization. Some savers in Egypt felt safer to put their money in dollars in Egypt to preserve the value of their savings in fear of the depreciation of the pound,” says Loutfy. “We have seen that trend in March and April, it decreased in May and it [has] started to subside.”
After the global financial crisis, there was a lot of talk on why Islamic banks were affected the least, due to the principles of Sharia denouncing derivatives. After January 25, and with the rise of Islamists, some predict a rise in popularity for Islamic banking to fit the trend, but Loutfy disagrees.
“I don’t see this. You have to never forget that the consumer is at the end, rational; they want good service and return,” says Loutfy. “That there is a revival [in Islamic banking,] no I don’t see it.”
The flip side of January 25 was that customers finally realized the importance, as well as convenience, of the internet in the finance world. Loutfy explains that because of Facebook and other online social media outlets, more people have became familiar with computers and the internet.
“There is an increasing demand [for] internet banking […],” says Loutfy. “Now there is more and more demand. The Central Bank has also approved mobile banking. This will also help increase the banking penetration among the Egyptian population.”
Overall, Loutfy believes that January 25 will leave a toll on many banks, in regards to their activities and choices. Banks who are affected the most are those who were overexposed to real estate or to companies that are now in trouble.
“This means a lot more provisions, rescheduling, negotiations and that [banks] have to be a lot more selective in the target market and the kind of clients they pursue,” says Loutfy. “It means a lot of stress tests and portfolio reviews to see how the overall portfolio has [been] affected and is [expected to be] affected by slowdowns, so maybe [there will be a] change in directions.”
Although Loutfy knows banks are yet to heal from the consequences of the revolution, she believes the sector was generally on the right track in 2010. And while she emphasizes that it will be more than a year before the effects wear off, when they do, the sector will again boom.
The National Bank for Development (NBD) was founded June 1980 as a commercial bank with a goal of developing Egypt's private sector economy by supporting start -ups and financing companies in different sectors. The bank has 70 branches in Egypt spread across all of Egypt's Governorates.. In the last quarter of 2007 Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), a bank operating in accordance with Islamic Shariaa principles and one of the first banks to promote Islamic Banking globally, acquired NBD.
NBD is now part of the Abu Dhabi Islamic banking group, which was established in 1997 with the aim of becoming a leading Islamic banking institution, offering Islamic shari'a compliant products and services, using the latest technology to satisfy customer needs.
NBD is now offering a broad spectrum of Shariaa compliant banking products and solutions for large corporate as well as individuals along with renovating all its current branches across all governorates of Egypt competing at the highest levels in the Egyptian market.
As part of its ongoing progress, the National Bank for Development (NBD) in cooperation with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) received on March 5th “Best Islamic Bank in Egypt award” for the second consecutive year and for the first time it received “the Best Islamic Private Bank award” as a result of the international poll for the best banks conducted in December 2011 by Islamic Finance News (IFN), an e-newsletter that specializes in assessing and providing news about Islamic banks and their development worldwide. Those two awards came in recognition of the bank’s continuing efforts last year in implementing its development plan and achieving higher growth rates, increasing the offering of Shari'a compliant products and services and focusing on better customer service, thus strengthening its position in the banking sector.
In the same poll, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank won three awards, “Best Syndicated Deal of the Year 2011”, “Turkey Deal of the Year 2011” and “Best Islamic Bank in UAE 2011”. In a big celebration organized by IFN in Dubai on Wednesday, February 29, 2012, Nevine Loutfy, Managing Director and CEO of NBD and Tirad Mahmoud, CEO of ADIB received the awards.
Nevine Loutfy stated, “The two awards that NBD received are the result of the strategy adopted in2011. Despite the challenges and events witnessed during the year, the bank dedicated its efforts towards service excellence and focused its objectives on how to provide a unique experience to its customers, through its innovative products and services, which accordingly led to their favorable votes in the poll. Customers’ satisfaction was the primary factor behind the bank’s awards; because without it we would not have gotten the votes, which determined the winner”
Further, thanks to the Islamic banking expertise and support NBD is continuously receiving from ADIB in various areas, NBD was able to strengthen its position and win the Best Islamic Private Bank award.
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