In this Q&A interview with Masroor Batin, the Head of BNP Paribas’ Wealth
Management (WM) Middle East & Africa (MEA) unit in Dubai, UAE, the Indian
educated graduate from the University of Calcutta talks about this strategic plan for
the bank, and his vision & key interlocking aims to nurture clients, grow and, where
appropriate, accelerate digitalization

 

 

Please tell us about yourself, your career & plans for the private bank?

I graduated from the University of Calcutta, India. Before coming to the UAE, I lived and worked in three countries – the US, India and Singapore. Each place had its own lessons for me, experiences and cultural twists. I’ve benefitted from their combined wisdom and strengths. In 2017, I moved from Singapore to Dubai with my wife and son.

In the City State I was formerly the Head of International and non-resident India (NRI) clients for BNP Paribas WM, leading the team there and in Hong Kong. Previously, I worked for Merrill Lynch as their Singapore and Malaysia market head, and I also had three years in India leading their online platform. I’ve also enjoyed 10 years in New York as an NRI market director for Merrill and Citibank.

My plans for BNP Paribas WM Middle East & Africa (MEA) is to build on our long-established position here. We’ve been in the region since the early 1970s demonstrating a long-standing commitment to the economic development of the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and to the wider region. The MEA unit now serves more than 900 clients through its 40 experienced bankers located across the UAE, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Saudi Arabia.

Over the next three years, from 2022-2025, I want to see:

  • New bankers join our platform.
  • A continued increase in assets.
  • A strengthening of our client base, especially on-boarding of high-profile clients and families in
    the NRI and other segments.
  • Launch new products that meet clients’ needs, such as local shares financing.

But I also want to see digital solutions that offer self-serve options, where wanted, and data analysis, while still retaining the personal touch that clients want. Technology must serve our interactions, not dominate them. The human aspect will always be important, despite the digitalization trend that we undoubtedly must also cater for.

What are the pillars that you intend to use to drive growth?

In the short term, we need to pursue our growth path in a sustainable way, year-after-year, respecting the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 crisis and our longer-term goals. I’m proud of the way my employees still delivered superior client experiences (CX) during the pandemic despite often working from home or facing other challenges. But the outbreak has also strengthened the case for more digital services and internal capabilities. In the coming years, we need to transform in order to grow, accelerate our digital journey, and continue to nurture clients.

The three key pillars I will base this strategic vision on, which is backed by an organizational ambition to become a top five player in the Wealth Management industry, are:

  1. Client engagement & digitalization: every project that we start, every individual strategy that we define must start with the client. We want to make sure that our clients are satisfied and that we provide them with best-in-class services. That is the basic starting point for everything, including the digitalization drive that must not supersede human relationships. Video conferencing, mobile applications and online events can all help, however, particularly during disruptive periods like the Covid-19 outbreak. They’re not a panacea, but they are helpful.
  2. Sustainability & future growth: BNP Paribas is ‘the bank for a changing world’ – and the world is transitioning fast towards a more sustainable economic model. The ecological, socio-economic and energy challenges are immense, as carbon net zero ambitions driven globally by Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance (ESG) policies and investments proliferate across the developed world. Locally, we will need to continue our transformation in order to support our clients in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) journey, be exemplary ourselves, and aware of the context in the region.
  3. People engagement & nurturing skills: People are the most valuable asset. They represent the firm to our clients and are the driving force for our vision and ambitions. We must never forget this. I am very proud of all my teams, and I will make sure in the future to give them a job where they can take decisions, be creative, evolve, grow, and feel committed and rewarded.

Tell us about the base you are building on & BNP Paribas MEA’s performance?

When I first joined BNP Paribas as Head of Wealth Management for the Middle East market in 2017, we launched a very comprehensive and ambitious strategic plan to achieve these results. They have come about by focusing on CX and engagement. Specifically, we implemented:

  • A new market approach to better serve clients irrespective of the internal organization of BNP Paribas WM.
  • An upgraded suite of products & services, with digital options, designed to meet the needs of our clients.
  • A new sales management department. This has improved the way we target, communicate & engage with our clients.

Over my four years in charge of BNP Paribas MEA in Dubai, the key financials have improved. For instance:

  • Assets under Management (AuM) have on average increased by 12% per year.
  • The loan book has increased significantly.
  • Double digit growth is evident in our revenues.
  • The development of our commercial teams in Dubai and Geneva, Switzerland, continues apace. A dozen new relationship managers (RMs) have been hired.

 What are the key strengths of the MEA unit: What are you & the bank overall doing well?

 Without doubt, the ‘One Bank’ integrated approach of BNP Paribas is at the heart of our value proposition, alongside our credit and investment offerings. In MEA this means we can leverage the Group’s capabilities to better serve our clients. Our bankers are backed by a team of experts who personalize and adapt BNP Paribas Group’s solutions to serve client’s key life events and any goals they might have, such as pursuing socially responsible investing (SRI) aims.

| Technology must serve our interactions, not dominate them

 Two divisions are especially appreciated by our MEA Wealth Management clients:

  • BNP Paribas Real Estate: this offers international expertise to GCC investors who wish to invest in European markets, a key strength for the Group. The team facilitates access to our international network based in 38 countries, providing property development expertize, investment management, transactions, consulting, valuation and property management services.
  • Najmah: this award-winning Global Islamic Banking Division stuffed full of Islamic banking specialists coordinates with a renowned Sharia Board to structure and market a broad range of Sharia compliant investments and financing solutions.

What challenges remain?

Well, Covid has obviously been a considerable challenge, and we’ve our three crucial pillars that I have already outlined over the longer-term. But on top of this I believe that preparing for the huge imminent generational transfer of wealth is important – and the differing needs of each participant. For instance, baby boomers and millennials will each have different investment behaviours, and each must be catered for as the transfer of wealth happens.

The inheriting generation will expect different services and solutions from wealth managers. Therefore, it is important that banks operating in the wealth management sector prepare adequately for this.

With the rise of technological advancement and digitalization, banks will also need to invest sufficiently in cybersecurity, which only grows in importance as the world digitalizes and shrinks. This naturally creates a more complex regulatory environment. Wealth managers must adapt to regulatory changes in all countries and regions and keep this in their minds as they operate.

Regulators are pushing for tighter control and more transparency. All the regulatory requirements involve the use of advanced technology, so banks will need to continue to invest in strong IT infrastructures.

-----------

The Private Banker International Global Wealth Awards is an annual platform that celebrates the most impressive and successful initiatives from private banks and wealth management companies who have deployed market leading, disruptive approaches to deliver globally recognized, industry changing strategies and products.