As part of its annual classification of banks around the world, the Banker magazine, renowned in the fields of finance, business and banking, granted Bank of Palestine the award of Best Bank in the World in the field of financial inclusion. The event was part of a competition that took place for the first time in the Arab World where an Arab financial institution receives an award for the year 2016. The said bank also obtained a second award for "Best Bank in Palestine during 2016."
These classifications observe the bank's pioneering endeavors to develop and expand financial services, and tailor and fine-tune them to respond to the needs of its clients on the local and regional levels during 2016. They also form part of a comprehensive system of professional ethics and acclaimed values, alongside achievements in previous years, which allowed the magazine to classify the bank as best bank in Palestine over the past years.
The award was distributed during a big ceremony that was held in the British capital, London, with the participation of a considerable number of business men and women, board chairpersons, and general managers of financial institutions in the Gulf and the Middle East region, and in the presence of pioneers in the Arab and international banking sector. The award was received by a delegation representing Bank of Palestine, which included Mr. Hashim Al Shawa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bank of Palestine, Mr. Rushdi Al Ghalayini, Deputy General Manager, Mrs. Raya Yusuf-Sbitany, Head of Business Development and Financial Inclusion, and Mr. Kamel Al Husseini, Head of International and Investor Affairs.
The award crowned the accomplishments and great developments achieved by Bank of Palestine during 2016 on the levels of financial inclusion, sustainability, expansion and development of financial and banking services, and the launch of various programs aimed to empower Palestinian women. The bank also succeeded in creating and developing new service technologies that contributed to achieving financial inclusion, and received an award of distinction among banks and financial institutions for the quality and variety of financial services provided to its clients around the world; all of which allowed it to earn an impeccable reputation and recognition on a global level.
Mr. Hashim Al Shawa expressed his utmost excitement in receiving the first ever award for best bank in the field of financial inclusion and the award for best bank in Palestine. "It is an important occasion for us to say that these accomplishments and distinctions granted international presence and recognition to Palestine and its financial institutions," said Al Shawa. "Our financial institutions managed to work at the level of global banks, and participate in the largest international economic arenas, through tremendous efforts that breed success stories, which grant Palestine the best representation," he added.
Al Shawa asserted that efforts conducted prove, day after day, the sound and long-term vision of Bank of Palestine, which aims to achieve a large national economic edifice that every Palestinian takes pride in. He added that the main foundation upon which the bank depends to attain these high levels of distinction was the trust it earned from its clients, and their appreciation of its products and services, not to mention the loyalty and support of its employees and their determination to achieve success. Once again, Al Shawa ensured that the bank will continue its journey to create and develop true financial products that promote the tools for financial inclusion.
Al Shawa stated that as long as the bank continues to receive advanced classifications, it will continue to operate in a distinctive manner. This entails a national responsibility to give more, and create innovative grounds to develop and propose new and appropriate services for competitive markets through the development of new financial and banking products and services that respond to the needs of its clients and are abreast with the various modern developments in the world of business and economics.
In terms of receiving distinction in financial inclusion on a global scale, Al Shawa pointed out that the award was a result of the bank's efforts during the past few years, on the level of a sustainable and comprehensive building and development process of the Palestinian economy and society in two main fields: empowering Palestinian women; and developing mechanisms for electronic payments and promoting the culture of plastic money. The bank took huge steps to achieve a high level of financial inclusion, and managed to launch a program to empower Palestinian women internally and externally starting with spreading banking awareness through the program “Felestineya,” which is the very first comprehensive banking program to empower Palestinian women, and entails the application and development of the ability of women to manage different projects through the Mini MBA program, and provide them further incentive through the “Best Business Plan Competition.” Last but not least, the bank launched several funding programs that fulfil the financial and banking needs of Palestinian women through the development of credit facilitations to help them start their own business. These programs not only meet the needs of Palestinian women, but are also compatible with their ability to pay loans through the “Felestineya” Gold Loans, the “Felestineya” Gold Loans for Women in Business, and the “Felestineya” Collateral Free Loan for Women in Business. The bank also covered the annual registration fees for all women’s projects during 2016 in the chambers of commerce and industry.
Internally, and part of its belief in the capabilities of women, Bank of Palestine took various steps to increase the number of its female employees, whereby since 2007, the number of female employees at the bank doubled from 16% to reach 32% by the end of 2015. The bank also enhanced the role of women to play an active role within senior managerial positions, whereby during the General Assembly elections of the bank’s Board of Directors in 2014, the first woman was elected as member of the board and the number of administrative positions for women increased within bank branches, sub-branches, executive management and other positions.
From another angle, the bank established the Electronic Payment System in Palestine in partnership with PalPay Company, especially for individuals who do not have bank accounts. Through this system, more than 6,000 points of sale were set up in various restaurants, hotels, pharmacies and large stores, allowing clients and citizens alike to pay their bills and shop using their points. The number of transactions executed using PalPay reached 13 million last year. Al Shawa pointed out that the persistent efforts and continuous development in the field of electronic services are a translation of the bank’s ongoing strategy whose most important pillar is to maintain the strong anchoring of the bank’s presence and leading role in the fields of electronic services. The latter service provided an opportunity for students to pay their university loans and for debtors from lending institutions to pay their due installments.
In closing, Al Shawa expressed his gratitude to all those who contributed and continue to contribute to the success of the bank, beginning from the bank’s family and staff, to shareholders and clients. He also commended the Palestinian Monetary Authority that continuously supports the efforts of Bank of Palestine to achieve excellence.