We were prudent during the mid-2000s boom, and did not damage the reputation of the Bank in the region by selling potentially toxic products, he said. BNP Paribas strategy during this time now seems like common sense and nowhere more so, than in the Gulf, where dealings are largely based on personal relationships and trust.

In February 2010, in an interview that Jean-Christophe Durand gave to Banker Middle East magazine, he talked about the financial crisis and its effects on the region. From a global perspective, the financial crisis hit the region later than the rest of the world, he told the magazine. Here, to a large extent, the crisis has been triggered by difficult financial situations resulting from over-leveraging. There have been different situations, different cases in different countries, but I believe that the region has financial strengths, good fundamentals and a vision for development and, over the medium term, has the means to achieve its vision. Where do our strengths lie? Geographically, obviously Qatar and Abu Dhabi are doing extremely well, with a lot of projects, and still moving fast. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also has a lot of potential, with major infrastructure and industrial projects coming through. Having said that, it is important to point out that the region as a whole remains important for BNP Paribas, and continues to be one of the strategic regions for the Bank.

Optimising efficiency, tightening operational security

In 2011, BNP Paribas optimised transaction processing in the Gulf by offshoring the Bank s Trade back office to BNP Paribas India Solutions Private Limited. This policy was then extended to other activities, as Erik Stroet explains. The same concept is still being followed today, and we have completed the offshoring of further activities: the Securities back office has moved to Geneva, while the Guarantees back office, Nostro Reconciliation and Account Payables were all offshored to India during 2011 and 2012.

BNP Paribas strategy of seeking to optimise efficiency in transaction processing is summarised by Erik: Throughout the days of growth in the region, followed by the period of adapting to the cost optimisation initiatives required due to the current economic conditions, we have followed the same strategy, which is proving to be the most efficient and least onerous for the Gulf region i.e. having a light local client-facing presence at the branches, while centralising non-direct client-facing services to the regional platform and industrialising non client-facing back offices outside the region.

The Bank was also determined to tighten operational security and enhance its crisis management and Business Continuity Planning (BCP) processes. To achieve this, it set up a dual platform for the most important operations. As Erik goes on to explain, BNP Paribas in the region set up the first dual platform in 2011, which became an operating model for the entire Bank. Critical functions are currently located on two platforms, Bahrain as the primary location and Dubai as the secondary platform for the purposes of BCP. This structure has become a pilot for other regions within the group to follow.

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE DURAND, CEO, BNP PARIBAS G.C.C.,

ON THE COVER OF THE BANKER MIDDLE EAST, FEBRUARY 2010.

82 T H E H I S T O R Y O F B N P PA R I B A S I N T H E G U L F S TAT E S