This is how a Region should be organised!
Michael Pereira, UAE Country Manager from 2002 to 2008, remembers the change to the regional structure.
This started a short while before my arrival in early 2002, he recalls.
The plan was to set up a Regional Management in Bahrain under the leadership of Jean-Christophe Durand, together with centralisation of all support and control functions such as back offices, IT, Finance, Risk, Compliance, Audit etc. Again the plan was simple the branches were freed up to concentrate on clients, earning revenues and winning market share. Like most simple things, it worked quite well.
The link-up and partnerships with various CIB and Investment Solutions businesses were certainly a defining factor in the success of the business. On the ground, for the branch personnel, things were quite new: they were no longer in control of an operation from A to Z but had to work in partnership with regional teams in order to service clients. Indeed an important takeaway from my Gulf experience was this spirit of partnership not only between business lines but also between functions. We often heard the acclaim that this is how a Region should be organised
Centralising the support functions
One of the major reasons behind the setting up of the regional hub was to centralise the support functions in the Bahrain regional office and in doing so relieve the individual branches throughout the region of these tasks.
By February 2003, this process had almost been completed for Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Qatar. The first department to be reorganised was regional IT support in 2001, and was followed by the Finance & Control Department and the Treasury/Forex and Derivatives back office operations by the third quarter of 2002. By February of the following year the regional back office for International Trade a leading activity in these four countries was in place.
Ali Ben Taher provides more detail on how the centralisation project was managed. The project for the regional hub started with the installation of the Atlas2 system33 between 2001 and 2002. This was the banking management system that had been chosen by the Group for international sites. This was followed by the centralisation of the support functions Human Resources, Finance and Control, and Back-Office Operations between 2002 and 2003. The work involved standardising procedures and process handling, job descriptions for the back-office posts and implementing second-level control systems.
Regional Chief Operating Officer (COO), and Deputy CEO, Corporate & Investment Banking and Investment Solutions, Middle East and Africa, Erik Stroet, explains the processes of creating and organising this new regional hub. As the integration of the CIB and IRB functions in Bahrain was one of the main targets within my scope, this was initiated immediately upon my appointment and finalised in the first quarter of 2003. The aim was to regionalise processes and combine functions, in order to ensure a much lighter client- facing setup, with fewer support functions performed locally. We had by then centralised Finance, IT, HR, Capital Markets Operations and Trading back offices. Shortly after this, centralisation of the Payments back office followed suit. In a nutshell, we defined standard processes and moved the relevant teams to the hub in order to improve efficiency.
Marc Checri, Head of the Abu Dhabi Branch from 2002 to 2005, explains how this new organisation looked. The setting-up of the Bank s new regional hub went hand-in-hand with the changes being made. The CIB and IS businesses continued to be managed by the regional hub, while making every effort to create synergies with the onshore establishments. Conversely many functions, which up to then had been carried out at the individual branches, became centralised at this regional hub, which called upon local help from each entity.
This new organisation relieved the branches of many of the administrative tasks which had up to then been their responsibility, and so enabled them to concentrate on their
33. Atlas2: Automatisation de Traitement par un Logiciel d Applications Standardisé, or Automation of Processing by Standardised Applications Software; it was the main IT system used by branches in the international network.
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