Lebenese lender committed to local unit more than ever

Lebenese lender committed to local unit more than ever

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Lebenese lender committed to local unit more than ever

A customer walks past the main entrance of Bank Audi head office in Beirut in the file photo. REUTERS Photo

Beirut-based Bank Audi, the sole foreign bank granted license to operate in Turkey in last 14 years, is aiming to found its second largest unit here, according to Freddie Baz, the chief finance officer, who strongly denied recent media reports which discuss the lender’s dedication in the local market.

“We are committed today more than ever to our presence in Turkey,” Baz told the Hürriyet Daily News during a recent telephone interview.

Baz said Audi has not proposed seats to chief executives of Turkish lenders, again disclaiming earlier media reports which said the biggest bank in Lebanon contacted heads of local Akbank and Garanti Bank.

It has been only two months since Audi was authorized by the Turkish regulator, Baz said.
“Some reports [in Turkish media] are confusing. We are much ahead of all the tasks to be achieved so far,” he said. The lender has already acquired a software solution which will start operating this week, Baz added, calling it “the most sensitive part of the process.”

Bank Audi has hired a 1,000-square-meters temporary head office in Istanbul’s Maslak business district, Baz said. “The real estate team of the mother company is accessing prime locations for branches and a final headquarters,” he said, estimating to stay at the Maslak facility for three years.
The bank aims to open 10 commercial branches to be operational in the 12 to 18 months horizon in greater Istanbul.

Audi cooperates with a professional company in building its staff in Turkey, Baz said, adding that hiring key people will start in February or March. However, the options did not include CEO’s of Garanti or Akbank, he challenged claims by Haber Türk newspaper and a number of online news portals.

“I deny it completely,” he told the Daily News. “Bank Audi did not approach them and they did approach us. Nobody took initiatives on our behalf,” he said, adding that the business ethics of Bank Audi were “well known.” Executives from the lender’s Beirut office were traveling to Turkey every day to contact authorities “to make sure the implementation process was fully compliant with local regulations,” according to Baz.

Baz avoided giving a concrete figure the possible size of the Turkish unit. “Still, we would like it to become the second [biggest sized unit] after Beirut,” he said. The bank currently has units in 10 countries.

Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Authority’s (BDDK) preconditions for foreign lenders to open units in Turkey include a capital of at least $300 million.
“We are feeling comfortable about the process,” Baz said. “We don’t like to talk before we act.”