Shaikha Hessa bint Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairperson, Al Salam Bank-Bahrain: Interview

Shaikha Hessa bint Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairperson, Al Salam Bank-Bahrain

Interview: Shaikha Hessa bint Khalifa Al Khalifa

How would you judge the position of women in Bahrain, considering the central bank’s emphasis on women in finance in 2015?

SHAIKHA HESSA BINT KHALIFA AL KHALIFA: A survey by Al Salam Bank-Bahrain of publicly listed companies in the country revealed that there is only one female chairperson in Bahrain. There are 43 heads of publicly listed companies who are men and 37 vice-presidential posts, predominantly occupied by men, while there are only 14 women who sit on the board of directors for companies in Bahrain and 283 men – a ratio of 4.71%. In general, women’s representation does not exceed 3.97%, a weak percentage when compared with the total percentage of women in the entire public and private workforce, which was 37.9% as of the third quarter of 2015. In reality, the pace of women’s growth into decision-making posts in financial institutions is quite alarming globally.

Despite the relatively early participation of women in the labour force in Europe, the levels there today remain below our expectations. In Britain, a report by Lord Davies, former Minister of Trade, released in the third quarter of 2015, suggested that as per the FTSE 100 index, women’s representation has reached its targets of 25% in 2015, which was increased from 12.5% in 2011. This rate, if maintained, could reach 30% by 2020. To allow for a higher degree of female presence in both decision-making and the labour force as a whole, we need to grow beyond conventional thinking, not only to reach high levels of influence, but also to benefit from the positive effect that comes with the increased presence and participation of women.

What are your views on Bahrain’s economic standing in light of receding oil prices?

KHALIFA: There is no doubt that declining oil prices will have a negative impact on the continuity of growth at the pace witnessed in the past. Bahrain, along with other GCC countries, passed through similar instances in the mid-1980s and again in the 1990s, which have equipped it to deal with scenarios such as oil prices growing and then suddenly plummeting every 10 years. In light of this, there are several steps to be taken to support a number of activities. As the Economic Development Board’s “Bahrain Economic Quarterly” report for the third quarter of 2015 indicates, there was an increase in GDP growth to 3.7%, up from 2.8% in the first quarter of 2015. In addition, output of non-oil sectors rose in the first six months of 2015 by 4.4% on the previous year. Moreover, projects and developments continue as planned in areas such as housing projects and the airport expansion programme and other road extensions and infrastructural developments.

How would you rate Al Salam Bank Bahrain’s experiences with mergers, and what lies ahead in this regard for the market in Bahrain?

KHALIFA: Bank mergers are not new to the institutional arena, and in recent decades the emergence of multinational companies, the opening of markets and the advancement of international trade have re-emphasised the importance in having institutions that grow, collaborate and strengthen their positions. Keep in mind that mergers between banks are governed by the principle 2+2=5. Mergers open up more prospects for growth on the regional and international levels by leading to a strengthened position in investments and through a show of confidence to investors, customers and affiliate institutions. Al Salam-Bahrain Bank’s experiences with mergers in Bahrain can be regarded as successful and uplifting, as we underwent more discussions with leading local banks with the aim of collaboration and have reached favourable outcomes to date. We continue to look into more opportunities for integration as it equips us with an additional array of capabilities.

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The Report: Bahrain 2016

Islamic Financial Services chapter from The Report: Bahrain 2016

Cover of The Report: Bahrain 2016

The Report

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