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‘Investment in Kuwait is a base for investment all over the region’

Interview - October 8, 2018

In this interview, Sheikh Ahmad Duaij Al-Sabah gives his insight into the financial sector in Kuwait, discusses CBK and its role in Vision 2035, and explains that investing in Kuwait can serve as a springboard to further investment in the wider region.



Despite the shockwaves caused by oil price crisis, both the public financial position and the Kuwaiti banking system are strong and stable and have weathered the storm well. Please share your assessment of the Kuwait finance sector?

With Kuwait being as it is size-wise, we have seen the banks expanding regionally. Outside Kuwait’s borders, we as the Commercial Bank of Kuwait have chosen to strive for excellence within our market rather than to overreach to other markets as of present. This could change tomorrow, but we strive to really try and streamline and perfect our model in house. That is where we are today.


CBK was one of the fastest growing banks in terms of assets in 2017, witnessing impressive 7.96% growth. As one of the country’s leading financial institutions, it is funding the nation’s large infrastructure projects and corporate customers, as well as supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and entrepreneurs. What is your view of CBK’s performance in 2017/18 and the outlook for the future?

Our performance has been steady and growing. Performance is a tricky word because we can say performance on profit, we can say performance on asset growth, but I take a holistic view of performance on how my customers are growing, how my staff is growing, and how the bank is growing. I can comfortably that we are definitely on an upward performance trajectory. We are in ascendancy, the tangent is up and I do not take credit for that. The credit goes to the amazing work we see now with the Vision 2035 program and the forward and outward-looking government.


Can you tell us more about CBK’s contribution to New Kuwait Vision 2035, from investment in large infrastructure projects to supporting SMEs?

Actually this is a very pertinent question because we were the lead arranger and financier of the recently completed Jahra Hospital. We are definitely a part of a lot of the large projects in Kuwait and we are definitely going to be contributing to all of them. We are very optimistic and definitely looking to working hand in hand with the Program 2035 Division and we look forward to being a key partner in all the different infrastructure projects. This is on a bigger level, and on the SME level, we do not shy away from our corporate social responsibility. Today’s SME is tomorrow’s large corporation and we definitely try to help in that manner as well.


In 2016, the U.S.-Kuwait strategic dialogue (USKSD) was launched, marking the beginning of a new era of stronger diplomatic, political, security, educational and commercial ties. How would you describe the evolving bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Kuwait?     

The liberation of Kuwait would not have been possible at all if it was not for the US and that we will forever be grateful for. That is one of the key components of that underlying feeling that is a base for the relationship. Kuwait always strives to shine the most positive light on the United States of America. We send our students over, we are one of the main trading partners with the United States and we definitely believe that it is one of our most important and key allies. Our relationship is deep – politically, economically, and socially. It is multi-faceted and multi-tiered on many levels. It is strong and we hope it will grow stronger and stronger.


Why should American investors choose Kuwait over other investment destinations?

As we said earlier we definitely live in a competitive environment. The competition is not negative competition. It allows you to see where your faults lie and how you can fix them and models for growth. I do not believe in exclusion so I say invest here and there and everywhere. This is how the whole is better. I believe by investing in Kuwait, you will also be able to invest outside of Kuwait. Investment in Kuwait is a base for investment all over the region. Kuwait is one of your key important stops because it will open up different stops along a much bigger region.


Why is CBK the ideal partner for U.S. investors in Kuwait?

Our main competitive advantages is we are lean, we are mean, we are flexible, we get emails and respond to them in seconds, we are very agile, and we have got the technology case full. So we can help a business or an industry focus on what they do best, while we carry the financial load. That is what we do and they should come to us and try us out.