Sohar International Celebrates 12 Years of Banking and Beyond
Since inception in April 2007, Sohar International (formerly Bank Sohar) witnessed steady growth, establishing itself as one of the most prominent banks in the country, identifying emerging trends and exceeding customer expectations every step of the way. With a lifecycle approach to Retail and Corporate clients, the bank provides customers a comprehensive and flexible range of products and services while adhering to the highest standards of quality and integrity. Its consistent focus on community welfare through a very active Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program has also earned the organization countless awards and invaluable recognitions. With such solid foundation and having secured over 10% of market share and acquired a solid customer-base of over quarter a million customers; it was time for the bank to leap into the next stage of development and further boost its contributions to Oman’s overall development by redefining banking and introducing a new era for the brand.
A New Journey of Winning
As the bank celebrates its 12th anniversary in the month of April 2019, it has already embarked on a new journey to transform the banking industry beyond the conventional provision of financial services. Following a change in leadership, the bank successfully drew a long term strategic plan, including a short term plan to execute against immediate priorities. The new strategy is effectively enabling the whole organization to grow by delivering enhanced performance on the fundamentals to reinforce its competitive edge whilst also delivering a robust contribution to the national economy.
The new five-year strategy that was formulated in 2018 by the new management, has repositioned the bank with vigour and laser-sharp focus on the objectives. As part of the strategy, the Bank launched its new brand as “Sohar International” with an aspirational and inspirational vision to become a world-leading Omani service company that helps customers, communities and people to prosper and grow.
This new vision is underpinned by five key pillars: Purpose, Promise, Principles, Personality and the overall Experience. The purpose encompasses the renewed organizational belief of helping people win by delivering banking for their ever changing world, which is supported by the promise for responsive banking services for people to reach any goal. The bank’s professional workforce has embraced the new brand personality of being Sharp, Human and Unstoppable. These personality attributes can be felt in any interaction through all the bank’s physical or digital touch points, clearly manifesting in the simple principles of offering ‘more velocity’ by making everything simpler and faster; ‘more value’ by making everything relevant and connected to the customers’ world; and ‘more vision’ through streamlining everything towards progressive and liberating interactions. As a result, the organization is steadily transforming into an ecosystem of financial services, offering differentiated value propositions with unrivalled customer experience.
Elegance, Dynamism and Perpetuity
With this ideology, the new brand’s logo sets to capture the stature and elegance of a financial institution while still feeling dynamic and perpetual. The two semi circles depict the essence of time – the mechanics within a clock’s movement. The orange spike denotes Sohar International being right there in the right place at the right time – capturing the element of precision – at the centre of things that are important to customers.
Strong Financials and Market Trust
Sohar International has seen momentous growth over the years, a pattern that earned it acknowledgement as one of Oman’s ‘Best Performing Companies’ at the 10th Alam Al-Iktisad Wal-Amaal (AIWA) Awards. The bank received the accolade in competition with 25 highly competitive firms for the Large Capital category.
The financial results for 2018 continued to reflect the bank’s spirit of winning, noting 15.9% growth in Net Profit, achieving OMR 29.366mn by the close of business on 31st December 2018, a rise from OMR 25.331mn in 2017. Furthermore, net interest income during the year increased by 18.7% to OMR 56.651 million compared to OMR 47.721 million in 2017. Operating income for the year increased to OMR 94.438 million, an increase of 23.6% as compared to OMR 76.416 million in 2017. The board of directors approved the distribution of cash dividends to shareholders at the rate of 6% of the capital (6 baisas per share).
Reaffirming its positive market position and investor confidence, Sohar International concluded the issuance of OMR 100mn unsecured subordinated perpetual bonds with overwhelming success that. The issuance was the largest in local currency by any bank, and the largest by any firm in 2018/2019 under the Capital Market Authority (CMA) and listed in Muscat Securities Market (MSM). The issuance will boost Tier 1 Capital adequacy of the Bank, and with additional CET 1 issuance, Sohar International will be further strengthening its core net worth to emerge as one of the strongest Banks in Oman.
With 12 years of solid contributions to people’s banking requirements, Sohar International remains committed to being industry leaders in innovation and seamless technology, a drive that has seen a remarkable boost as part of the new strategy and brand identity. Keeping up with customers’ changing lifestyles, Sohar International introduced ‘eFloos’, a unique e-wallet offered in partnership with Omantel in what has become the first of its kind Telecom - Banking tie-up in the Sultanate. The digital wallet enables smartphone users to pay merchants, add, send and receive funds to and from other wallets, expanding the application of e-payment facilities in Oman.
Additionally, the bank’s One Minute Mobile Banking and Internet Banking platforms saw incessant enhancements, encouraging more customers to convert from traditional means of transacting to more convenient electronic platforms. Other key digital initiatives such as the introduction of 24x7 instant fund transfers to any bank in Oman, payment of utility bills, payment of PASI contributions, along with instant money transfer service for remittances to India raised the bulwark of digitization to international levels. Additionally, the launch of interactive e-Statement for retail customers in support of the Go-Green initiative catapulted the bank’s standing as Oman’s first bank to introduce an interactive e-statement facility.
Corporate Social Responsibility
Over the years, Sohar International has remained committed to instilling positive socioeconomic change within the community through various program and initiatives. Sohar International’s CSR contributions are carefully planned and evaluated in order to ensure maximum diversity and reach, already benefitting over 30 charitable associations numerous times around the Sultanate. The 12th year of operation saw Sohar International extend support to various charitable and social development activities, bringing more value to the lives of the differently-abled, youth, women, professional communities and entrepreneurs whether through direct donations or sponsorships.
Sohar International demonstrated a strong investment in the enrichment of youth over the years, paying significant attention to nurturing young Omani talent. In line with the bank’s Sharp, Human and Unstoppable brand personality, the bank announced its exclusive sponsorship for the 15-year old, racing sensation, Shihab Al Habsi helping him win and raise the Omani flag internationally. Within the realm of empowering Omani youth and in support of the government’s job creation agenda, Sohar International launched ‘Tomohi’; a one-year internship program aimed at enhancing knowledge and skillsets of Omani college and university graduates which in turn boosts their employability.
With a firm belief in the importance of knowledge sharing as a practice to encourage progress in any discipline, Sohar International sponsored many forums and conventions, covering various globally hot topics such as Blockchain technology, cybersecurity, human resources development, youth leadership, entrepreneurship, road safety among others.
Helping to enrich the local economic scene with invaluable insights from world-renowned inspirational personalities, Sohar International established it’s highly successful Chairman’s Forum ‘Viewpoint’. The forum has already seen three very well received editions, covering high-level topics such as the importance of future foresight and the role of technology, changing global powers and the reform of entire financial systems. To ensure maximum benefit to a wide spectrum of people, the forum invites high profile public officials, business leaders, academics, college students and entrepreneurs, while also broadcasting the forum live on social media platforms.
Sohar International’s Retail Banking Division boosted its contributions towards the bank’s vigorous progress, further expanding its customer base, adding more value to differentiate its existing product and service offerings, and innovating market-leading propositions.
Enhancing accessibility to its wide-range of products and services, the bank expanded its branch network bringing the network to a total of 30 branches by end of 2018. In addition, the bank extended its offsite network of ATMs with new additions bringing the total number of ATMs by end of 2018 to 66, located at tactical high-footfall locations, enhancing access to the bank’s retail services.
Committed to the principal of ‘more velocity’ as part of the new brand attributes, the bank also launched a comprehensive efficiency campaign to streamline internal processes, and ensure record time delivery of services such as opening new accounts in just five minutes among other initiatives. Accommodating customers’ busy lifestyles, the campaign also announced extended working hours at the bank’s Oman Avenues Mall branch from 9am to 9:30 pm, every day, including weekends and holidays.
Sohar International introduced seven new life insurance products in 2018 through a strategic tie-up with Arabia Falcon Insurance, and further raised the bar by using advanced technology to become the first bank in Oman to issue life insurance policies instantly.
Rewarding thousands of winners to date, Sohar International unveiled its new Sohar | Prize Scheme for 2018 under the theme ‘Now That’s Winning’. The new Prize Scheme offers special occasion draws; salary transfer draws; and youth draws along with, weekly, monthly, quarterly and the grand year end draws.
To further increase awareness about the bank’s products and services, as well as increase its market share, the cards business launched four promotional campaigns, all receiving very positive response, most notably its ‘Free for Life’ promotion that offered customers credit cards with no renewal or service fees for life.
With a more focused approach to customer service, Sohar International unveiled its new world-class Wealth Management advisory services, crafted exclusively for increasingly judicious customers, offering them fiduciary advice and highly customized financial and related services, covering savings and investments schemes, borrowings, future protection schemes and day to day transactions.
Closely monitoring economies and markets around the world rapidly changing, Sohar International evolves as an experienced partner, one with a global reach, regional expertise and a passion for client service to help customers win and grow for the future. Sohar International’s Wealth Management is built on the incalculable value of having the right and timely advice from a trusted partner. The Sohar Wealth Management team is well equipped with experts that can reach out to customers across the Sultanate, with varied expertise ranging from investment banking, risk management, retail and corporate banking, among other important fields.
Catering to the needs of large corporates, mid-sector corporates and SMEs, the Wholesale Banking Division has always played key role in the banks overall performance. With a team of industry professionals, and reflecting the banks new brand principals of more velocity, more value and more vision, the Wholesale Banking division has managed to garner a reputation for its unmatched turnaround time, focused approach, corporate advisory and tailor-made facilities to nurture and evolve a company through each of the ascending levels of growth, guiding them from being an SME to Mid Sector Corporate, and eventually Large Corporate.
Over the past 12 years, the Large Corporates Banking unit (LCB) has successfully delivered financial services and solutions to sectors such as oil & gas sector, large infrastructure projects, retail projects, and mining projects, in addition providing impetus to the national plans for economic diversification. The department’s strategy is to canvass business outside of Muscat, particularly with prospects emerging in Sohar and Salalah, which has been well received and further widened the horizon for new relationships in other geographic locations such as Duqm, Nizwa, Sur, Buraimi, and others. In line with other units of the bank’s Wholesale Banking Division, the Large Corporates Banking unit has put greater emphasis on its advisory services, attracting customer’s recognition to the high quality standards of the services extended.
The Mid Sector Corporate Banking (MSC) on the other hand, has been catering to the Banking requirements of groups which are not considered ‘large’ and have specialised requirements such as structured finance. The MSC Department also proactively supports medium size enterprises/sub-contractors and traders for key economic sectors such as Oil & Gas, Contracting companies, Trading Companies, and sub-contractors associated with big infrastructure projects as well as high end services requirements to other reputed organisations.
The Bank’s SME Unit played a vital role to nascent industrial clusters in Oman and has emerged as a trusted guide, continuing to focus its vision to follow the Government’s directives in deviating away from an oil dependent economy and moving forwards the potential of the SME segment. The SME Unit has positioned itself today as a knowledge partner, providing total business solutions to budding entrepreneurs, and introduces SMEs to entry level risk management through educating them on early warning signs.
Sohar International asserts a high-functioning Investment Banking division that endows trusted financial advisory solutions, as well as handles the Asset Management Unit. In 2018, the division’s total value of assets under management increased to OMR 80 million, including the bank’s appointment as Co-Manager of Oman Growth Fund. The division further helped to raise capital for Oman Development Fund (ODF), successfully onboarded a sovereign entity, and its role as advisory service provider was extended until 2024. The bank’s asset management team successfully onboarded a number of prestigious clients in 2018 following its relaunch of trust and custody services, as well as portfolio management and an escrow service for private equity deals. Sohar International’s Asset Management team is also increasing its presence in the market with offerings for the equity and bond market.
Since its inception in 2013, Sohar Islamic has demonstrated an upward ascent within the Islamic banking sector, continuing to contribute positively to Sohar International’s bottom line and providing retail and corporate customers with a wide range of Shari’a compliant products and services. In 2018, Sohar Islamic observed a range of positive outcomes and milestones, featuring growth across a number of key verticals, notably furthering its penetration of the corporate segment. 2018 saw the addition of two branches to its network ensuring accessibility to current and potential customers.
Sohar Islamic continued to serves as an industry leader to foster greater knowledge and understanding of Islamic banking by facilitating education through several seminars targeted towards the youth. Sohar Islamic assures full alignment with the standards set by the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI).
Sohar International places great value on human capital as the ambassadors of the brand and the backbone of its various operations. With various in-house and external training and development programs, the bank’s Human Resource Division’s major focus remained on building employee personal and professional aptitude and proficiency that will help meet business objectives and the overall strategy of the bank. 2018 saw the bank launching ‘Erteqa’a Plus’, a participant-centred six-month management and leadership skills development program, delivered in partnership with Harvard Business Publishing. Many other initiatives were introduced by the bank to promote greater interaction among employees in general and between junior, mid-level, and senior employees. Sohar International remains committed in its support towards the Sultanate’s Omanisation policy; achieving an Omanisation ratio of over 93% by end of 2018, underlining its commitment to provide job and development opportunities to young and qualified Omanis.
With a market leading senior management team, plans to utilize state of the art technologies to transform the customer’s banking experience, focused business model, all aligned with the new vision to become a world-leading Omani service company that helps customers, communities and people to prosper and grow, Sohar International is set to become a market leader in service efficiency and superior customer experience for retail and corporate customers alike. The Bank has also ensured that its strategic transformational agenda contribute positively to the national economy and the country’s socioeconomic development efforts.
At Sohar International, we believe that our customers deserve nothing less than excellence. That is why we constantly strive to maintain and further enhance our position as one of Oman’s leading banks. We reiterate our commitment to create the finest banking solutions, services and products that will make us unique, distinct and different – like the proud heritage of Oman. As Oman’s economy experiences sustained growth and the non-petroleum sector emerges as an important economic force, we present ourselves as a 'one-stop financial super-mall' catering to the diverse needs of our individual and corporate customers.