7 7 S I M P LY A B U DH A B I Arnie Hira: I'mhere with the CEOof AbuDhabi Commercial Bank, Mr. Ala'a Eraiqat. Thank you for sitting down to talk with Simply AbuDhabi. Let me start by asking: what was your first job? Ala’a Eraiqat: My career began as a trainee at the Abu Dhabi office of an international bank. I had the opportunity to work with many experienced professionals and learn the business from the ground up. Arnie Hira: What inspired you to get into the banking and financial sector? Ala’a: From an early age I wanted to be a banker. In fact from the minute I opened my first bank account I was fascinated by the industry – the processes, how they work and what they mean. In growing up my fascination only increased, so I was very happy when I started my career. Arnie: What are the most prominent events you can recall that encouraged you to become the banking entrepreneur you are today? Was there a pinnacle moment? Ala’a: Early in my career around 1995, I was managing a small branch, a cash office with three people. One day there was a power cut. I remember it distinctly – no computers or ATMs were working and we couldn’t serve our customers. So I thought out of the box and rented a generator. We restored power and were soon disbursing cash to our customers. The area manager was very impressed and I soon received a promotion. That’s when I thought, going the extra mile really goes a long way, and it has stayed with me. Getting that satisfaction from clients, on a daily basis, is what drives me. Arnie: I have the same with the publication - you can't beat that feeling. Ala’a: For me, it's the only job in the world where I get that reward and sense of accomplishment. In our industry, customer service is the only real differentiator. So going the extra mile and earning a customer’s loyalty is a fantastic feeling. For me, it's better than any formal appraisal. Arnie: That's because you're passionate about what you do. What do you think makes a successful banking and finance executive these days? Ala’a: You have to be reliable and dependable. Whilst machines can do most things, this is still a service industry. So the reliability and dependability of our people is essential to the success of the organisation. To understand the customer and what they need, and then get it done, is ultimately what matters. We invest a lot in the training of all new staff so that this happens, and I constantly reinforce that our dependability is what we need to protect. Arnie: I spoke with a colleague of yours, who said he’d been with the bank for seven years, which is a great sign of loyalty at ADCB. Ala’a: Almost all the top one hundred people in the bank have been with us for at least seven years. We don't recruit senior level people, as a rule – we prefer to give employees the opportunity to advance. We only create a new job if we need a set of skills we don’t have in-house. We think that creates loyalty. Arnie: What advice can you give to budding bankers who are looking to get into your business? Ala’a: The number 1 thing I say when I meet new staff is: if you look at this as just a job, you will fail. This is a lifestyle. As a banker, you cannot say something is outside your working hours. If you're going to embark on this career, of being in the service industry, you must be dependable. If you don't fully commit to service provision, you can’t be successful in banking. You have to be there for the client 24/7. Arnie: Do you have any methods in place to identify your employees’ success in that regard? Ala’a: We do and we take it very seriously. We are the only bank in the UAE using what is called a Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is a management tool to measure the loyalty of our customer relationships. Our NPS affects a minimum of 30% of all our annual appraisals. Arnie: So does ADCB run analytics? Ala’a: Yes, very detailed. Just last year we received direct feedback from over 80,000 customers. It affects every individual in our organisation, because in addition to our mindset, we have to follow it with a process. And we have to adhere to it and be vigilant about monitoring it. We have mystery shoppers, too; over 1,400 this year so far. In total, we call and obtain feedback from more than 100,000 customers a year. We don't wait for one time in a year to run a campaign to get customer feedback. We do it every day as part of our standard operating procedures. It puts us on a different level. Our clients know they can depend on us. And yes, problems may happen. But we have the ability to solve them. In upwards of 90% of cases, any issue escalated gets solved within 24 hours. We try to do it right the first time, but if not, at least the turnaround to service recovery is extremely high. And anything that's not fixed in that time, I get to see it. Arnie: That's very hands-on, especially in this day and age where a lot of CEOs and senior management delegate everything out to their teams. Ala’a: It’s the only live view you can have into what's going on in the engine room, in the moment. And being able to respond to something, in the moment – that's what keeps us at the cutting edge. Arnie: And this is what gives ADCB that extra special personal touch that clients desire. Ala’a: Yes, but it’s not just about personal service. You also need to be able to distinguish which transactions get automated. Because generally speaking, most customers prefer the convenience of self service – especially in this day and age with mobile and internet banking. Take checking your balance or paying a utility bill. for instance – most people now log on to their smartphone for that. Arnie: So, what are your main objectives and responsibilities as CEO? Ala’a: There are many, but the first objective is to work with my Board of Directors - to ensure that they're fully updated and aligned with the current strategy and performance, and to manage corporate governance. Giving them full visibility into what's going on, and to get their feedback. We have committee meetings at least once a week, and we have a full Board Meeting almost once a month. Arnie: So it is very regimented? Ala’a: Yes – and it should be. Managing our customers’ and shareholders’ money is a huge responsibility, so at the top of my agenda next to customer service is the strict following a world-class corporate governance structure. In addition to that, my biggest job is to make sure every single person in our very capable management team work in harmony together. I suppose it’s like being the conductor of a very big orchestra – it only works when everyone does their bit and in harmony with each other. These are my two key roles in broad terms. But in reality, I'm also responsible for the image of the bank, the brand and its reputation - which is something intangible. You can't measure it, yet it's the most valuable property that needs carefully protecting. Arnie: What do you love most about the job? Ala’a: The daily or even hourly sense of accomplishment. It can come from staff, or your customers, or the numbers, or the profitability. Every day you feel you're contributing. And changing lives. Every minute. Which is so rewarding. At one point in my career I moved to become a CFO for a large company. That was very depressing for me, because I could only get that reward from my job once a year, once I got the annual results published. But now I get the rewards every day. Sometimes ten times a day. Solving a problem, making a decision, turning profit, closing a transaction - that's so exciting. And very rewarding. Arnie: So what do you believe to be the secret of creating a successful brand in business? Ala’a: It’s credibility. And the only way you become credible is by earning it over time, through building trust and demonstrating integrity. You cannot say you are credible; you have to become known for it, through your actions – it’s your reputation. If you are known as a credible brand, a brand to be trusted, then you have the unassailable advantage. But you have to work hard to keep it once you have earned it.