Our Diwaniya chats with Gulf Bank employees are never dull ones, that’s for sure. With such a young, fun and dynamic group of young individuals working together, it comes as no surprise that Gulf Bank’s proud reputation for attracting and elevating local Kuwaiti employees is being sustained, yet again winning first place for the Localization Award from the GCC Council of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs for the eighth consecutive year.
We met and spoke to Haneen Al-Ghanim, Manager, Consumer Banking Group, Najla Al-Essa, Executive Manager, Consumer Banking Group and Zeyad Al Resheed, Executive Manager, Human Resources, as they discussed the latest developments for the highly anticipated 1 million dinar Al Danah draw, how the red™ Account is specially set up to help students, and what the Bank’s Learning and Development department is doing to develop the careers of young Kuwaitis.
The Al Danah Surprise
So how is the team getting ready for the grand prize draw for the whopping 1 million dinars? Representing the Al Danah product team, Haneen Al-Ghanim believes that a dynamically coordinated program is the key to pushing Al Danah forward. “We regularly meet with different departments in the bank, including IT, marketing, and Public Relations. We’re all working towards the beginning of the year for the grand prize draw, which is the largest event and which is normally co-hosted by a renowned celebrity. Last year, we had Najwa Karam, the year before George Kordahi, and this year the surprise is even bigger.” She smiles excitedly as she continues, “We have some more surprises coming up as well.” For Haneen, spreading the excitement to customers is achieved when the process to enter the Al Danah draw becomes easier, “If you don’t already have an Al Danah account now, you can still start one to enter our weekly draws of KD 1000 for ten winners, simply by visiting your local GB branch. However, in the future, customers will also be able to open an Al Danah account to enter the 1 million dinars draw online if they are existing GB customers, or even via telebanking. Coordinating plans to keep the Al Danah moving smoothly is no easy task, it takes a lot of work from many different teams to ensure that all the processes are in place to make it a success.”
Haneen also counts on Learning and Development, Zeyad Al Resheed’s area of responsibility, to spread the knowledge about the Al Danah account and its benefits to all GB employees. “It is important to let everyone in the Bank know that Al Danah offers more value in terms of prizes; there are numerous draws for cash prizes throughout the year, from the weekly winners for KD 1000, quarterly draws of KD 125,000, KD 250,000, KD 500,000 and of course, the grand prize draw of 1 million dinars. Many employees speak to customers on a daily basis, so it’s important that they can help customers who have questions about the draw”. This year, as an added incentive for all existing Al Danah account holders, the Bank has carried forward all chances accumulated from 2011 into 2012, increasing customers’ chances of winning the grand prize. She concludes, “The chances for customers with Al Danah account increase exponentially, for each day one hundred KD stays in your Al Danah account the chances keep increasing- as long as the minimum balance of KD 200 is maintained.”
The red™ account, specially designed for students
Najla Al- Essa focuses on making sure that the youth oriented red™ account stays young, fresh and actively involved with its large customer base. She comments, “Since we are targeting college and university students mainly aged between 17 and 24, the red™ account needs to be in touch with their needs.” Also doubling as a savings account with the highest interest rate, the red™ account is also preferred by students because it is completely free and student allowances are also credited in advance to other local banks.
Najla also tells us about the latest referral program for red™ account holders, “This program reflects the social nature of our customers, so it is really a win-win situation. The more friends referred to open a red™ account, the more cash and other prizes are given to the existing customer and the new GB red™ account holder.” Touching on her experience, Najla believes that getting ‘social’ with red™ account holders is the best way to stay tuned to their needs. “With social media, we are always available to this young segment through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. We also do fun competitions to engage with them—they basically live online, and we love interacting with them!”
red™ account booths are located in campus halls, cinema halls, shopping malls to ensure that they are readily accessible for customers. Najla points out that red™ customers are future salaried customers, which is why the Bank is so focused on listening to their needs. “We want them to grow with us. Our customers are trendy; they love to shop yet they barely save. Besides the discounts we always offer, we’re also hoping to introduce activities to encourage them to actively save through rewarding them for their savings.”
Learning and Development’s role in creating tomorrow’s banking managers
Learning and Development is an area which is imperative towards the success and progression of the talented employees at Gulf Bank, and human resources executive manager Zeyad Al Resheed, is passionate about the development and training of employees across all sectors. This is exemplified by the bank’s recent achievement in winning the coveted ‘Best Employee Development Programme’ award for the second consecutive year from Banker Middle East, the region’s leading banking industry magazine. “We’ve maintained a consistent level of delivering training to our employees, and we try our hardest to cover all the target areas required to prepare them for promotion or their next job here at the Bank.” Zeyad reports that employees are very pleased with the progress made regarding their ‘soft’ skills, and now the focus is more on increasing technical or ‘hard’ skills, delivering more customized training, while compliance training will be ongoing given the bank’s commitment to meeting the requirements dictated by the Central Bank.
So how would Zeyad work with both Haneen and Najla’s respective departments? This would be determined by the nature of their personal and technical requirements. He explains, “We have a committed team that is always in touch with both product managers, for instance Haneen might need our assistance in training the employees about the developments concerning Al Danah. We set plans and deadlines, and make sure we implement. On a personal development level, we would have already reviewed and set our plan for Haneen to help her progress further in her career here at the Bank.”
2013 will see even more developments to advance the careers of highflying Kuwaiti employees at Gulf Bank including the Kuwaiti development program. Zeyad identifies this as a tool to target high performing Kuwaiti employees, to ensure that they are prepared for a promotion and moving ahead. “We will create an individual development plan customized for each person, and in that sense we can create tailor made programs to guarantee the advancement of these high flyers. Each manager would be required to teach his subordinate, the high flyer, a new responsibility and task.”
In doing so, this keeps the pipeline of resources within the bank flowing with trained, young Kuwaiti employees at Gulf Bank. Zeyad adds, “When we consider Kuwaitizaton as a Central Bank policy, it is our commitment to this policy that has led us to winning first place for the Localization Award from the GCC Council of Ministers of Labour and Social Affairs for the eighth consecutive year. This shows how we are committed to giving back to the community with a stellar percentage of nearly 70 percent for Kuwaiti employees. Since we are investing in this commitment, we also wish to see the progress of our valuable employees to remain with us and further their careers.”
More importantly, the Learning and Development department is also committed to expanding the percentage of young, Kuwaiti talent at the Bank by attracting fresh graduates from Western universities to apply at Gulf Bank before considering other places. “We also have a high flyers structure and program for these candidates. If these candidates score highly on their recruitment exam, they are flagged for more tests and interviews that could expedite their recruitment directly into a department before starting at a Gulf Bank branch, and they are also sponsored, training wise, by their department for six months.” This innovative way of attracting fresh graduates who happen to be holders of Western degrees will surely have many fresh graduates competing harder to enter this program, giving them a chance to fast-track their future career in banking.
As a training team, the Learning and Development department also added recruitment for the branches and call centers as part of their efforts. Starting from the initial interview of a candidate, to their confirmation of a position at the bank, the candidate reports to the training department to better direct these young individuals towards a more appropriate position suited to the individual’s talents.
The end goal, after all, is to increase the pool of talented young Kuwaitis at Gulf Bank. As Zeyad concludes, “We wish to raise the bar of the dynamic team here at Gulf Bank, and we will continue to do so by attracting new potential employees while elevating the talents of our current team of great employees.”