THE banking industry in the country remains a challenging but rewarding environment for the Netherlands-based ABN Amro Bank Bhd, said country representative and acting managing director Jeremy Oliver.
The bank's pre-tax profit jumped 20.2% to RM43.2mil for the first six months ended June 30, from RM36mil in the same period last year.
Although we are relatively small in relation to the banking scene in Malaysia, we are, through that small size, able to be nimble and dynamic in terms of answering the needs of our client base here, he told Starbiz.
He said ABN Amro Bank saw itself as a relationship bank providing wholesale solutions to its clients' banking needs.
In that respect we are able to provide niche products to clients who are looking to leverage treasury business, trading business or foreign currency related products, he said.
Oliver said going forward there would be increased competition from more sophisticated domestic banks as well as from intermediation of other financial services groups in the country.
However, he feels that the bank would be able to stay ahead of competition.
If we can respond quickly and package products which deliver a combined set of high quality products and services to the clients, then I think we can stay ahead of competition, he said, adding that being there for the clients and responding in a timely fashion would minimise the inflexibility of doing business for the clients.
Oliver said globally ABN Amro Bank went through a major internal restructuring in 2001 and essentially reorganised itself into three separate groups within the bank - retail banking, wholesale banking and asset management.
We reorganised ourselves along those lines because we realised we cannot be all things to all people. What we want to do is focus on being the best where possible to our client base.
Inevitably things change - information technology systems and market trends change. We have to anticipate change to stay ahead, he added.
With this, Oliver said the bank's current focus in Malaysia was its wholesale banking business, focusing on corporate and commercial clients.
Retail banking and private class asset management are not the focus for Malaysia currently given our limited branch network, he said.
On whether the bank planned to penetrate the retail banking business in the country, Oliver said it would depend on the bank's ability to expand its branch network and compete with the other more established players in the industry.
If we think we can compete with the likes of Maybank and Bumiputra-Commerce Bank in retail banking, then we will look into it but they have such an established branch network and customer base that it would be difficult to enter the market in the medium term, he said.
Oliver said ABN Amro Bank was interested in asset management as Malaysia, with its high savings rate, was an attractive country for such business. Malaysia can be a base to manage foreign funds and to attract domestic funds as well, he said.
He also sees Islamic banking as an area of growth. We will have to develop our capabilities in Islamic banking to develop products and services which suit Islamic banking requirements over time. It is inevitably going to be important in Malaysia in the future, he added.
ABN Amro Bank currently does not have an Islamic product per se but customises the products according to the needs of its clients.
Oliver said the bank planned to introduce a state-of-the-art electronic banking delivery system in Malaysia once regulatory approval has been obtained.
The system had been rolled out in other countries with a high degree of success, he said.