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Thursday, 25 July 2019

My Morning Routine: Soha El-Turky, chief financial officer at Banque du Caire

Soha El-Turky, chief financial officer at Banque du Caire (BdC): My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Soha El-Turky, chief financial officer at Banque du Caire (BdC), which is a full-service bank headquartered in Cairo.

My name is Soha El-Turky and I am the CFO at Banque du Caire (BdC), a position I have held for a little over a year. Before assuming this role, I spent most of my career at Citibank and Barclays, holding CFO roles at these organizations in Egypt and the UK. Most importantly, I am a wife, daughter, and mother of two great girls (Farida, 22, and Malak, 16) and, together with my husband, they have been my greatest supporters throughout my career.

I start my day by checking my email and WhatsApp before I get out of bed (a very bad habit), and I often fire off a few emails before getting ready for work, as my brain starts quickly running through my to-do list. I’m not a coffee person, but I have tea every morning while I check the news. I enjoy swimming and I’m trying to get back into the routine of swimming a couple of times a week before going to work. My kids are grown up now, so thankfully I no longer have to get anyone ready for school.

Every day is like a marathon. As soon as I get to the office, I plug in my laptop and review my plan for the day. We have a lot on our plate as a management team, and there are many projects going on at BdC, so I spend a large part of the day in meetings. There are always people coming in and going out of my office, and I enjoy the engagement.

I try not to stay late at the office, aiming to leave around 6 pm. I usually head to an open-air lounge near home, often to do some of my solo work (which is a lot more productive than working at the office). I’m usually joined by my husband on his way back from work, and sometimes my younger daughter. Then we head home to spend some time together and have a light dinner. I don’t watch TV. Sometimes I’ll watch a movie or a show online, and I often read before sleeping to clear my mind. Weekends are spent with my family and catching up with friends.

Free time is sparse during workweeks, so I make a point of taking short breaks every few months to go on holiday with family or friends and recharge. I enjoy nature very much and also love capturing it in photos. My last trips were to Cape Town and Wales, which both have amazing scenery.

Reading, especially fiction, is the most effective way for me to disconnect. I actually collect good books from different genres, even if I don’t read them immediately, to ensure that I always have ample choice. My favorite works of fiction include A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Rosie Project. The last non-fiction book I read was Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which resonated with me in many ways. I also enjoy watching TED talks. A couple of my favorites are The Paradox of Choice and The Surprising Science of Happiness.

BdC has a deep-rooted history in Egypt. It was established in 1952, with three branches in the country. It is currently the sixth-largest bank in Egypt by balance sheet size, with around 220 branches across the country, and over 3 mn customers — the fourth largest customer base in the market.

In 2018, BdC set about implementing a strategy designed to diversify operations, capture new market opportunities and ensure greater profitability. The idea was to reposition BdC within the Egyptian banking market, and the results of the turnaround have been impressive. In 2018, our profit after tax (PAT) grew 207% to reach EGP 2.5 bn on the back of our growing lending by nearly 50%, improving net interest margins and reducing cost-to-income ratio, as well as investing in people, technology and infrastructure. In 1Q2019 we delivered the highest revenue growth in our peer group, resulting in a bottom line of EGP 1.2 bn — a 200% growth in PAT.

I see BdC as a truly universal bank which serves a wide spectrum of customers, ranging from microfinance borrowers to large corporations. One of our real strengths is in the area of microfinance, where we have a leading market share of roughly 25%. This is a segment not widely served by many commercial banks. Since 2002 the bank has developed a successful model for serving this segment, and we continue to see it as a key growth area going forward.

We are very close to our customers. Our brand is well-recognized and trusted, and we have long-standing relationships with a large client base of around 3 mn customers. Our distribution network comprises over 220 branches across the country (65% of which are outside Cairo), and this isn’t matched by many private banks operating in the market. This provides BdC with access to a wide — largely untapped — customer base, allowing us to play a very active role in promoting financial inclusion.

I believe the key factor driving our success is our people; we share a single-minded focus on transforming BdC. Our management team is highly regarded, with solid experience that positions it very well to lead the current phase of transformation.

Until recently, the broader market wasn’t fully aware that BdC is going through a complete transformation, building our capacity in technology, expanding our branch network and customer segments, revamping our infrastructure, and introducing new products like internet and mobile banking. This is all intended to help us serve a broader client base. It’s often thought that we mostly target mass and lower-mass retail customers, but in reality it’s the corporations that occupy over 50% of our loan book, and we have a sizeable affluent customer base on the retail deposit side. Thanks to our rebranding efforts, external communication and marketing strategies, the market has started to understand this transformation.

It’s no secret that technology, innovation and the power of fintech are already disrupting the industry globally. Banking will be completely revolutionized over the coming years and it’s only the banks that adopt a forward-looking strategy, embracing these changes, that will remain relevant. What we’ll see is a very different industry, demanding a progressive mindset and a really dynamic talent base.

I’ve learned a lot from some great leaders throughout my career. One important lesson that I learned firsthand years ago was that if you take bold decisions and do the right thing for your customers and your employees, profitability will automatically follow. Sometimes you see management teams that are tempted to protect short-term profitability above all else, but true success is achieved when we look beyond short-term gains. This sounds like a simple concept, but it can be extremely difficult to implement. On a personal level, I think the best piece of advice I ever received during the early days of my career was to go beyond my functional role and play an active part in steering the business strategy and decision-making in a broader sense.

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