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How do countries with a history of conflict overcome their past and set themselves on a course for a better future? Answers may lie within the story of The International Development Bank for Investment and Finance, which has achieved a large market share in Iraq, partly thanks to its innovative approach to understanding the needs of its customers.

Ziad Khalaf Abdel Karim, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the International Development Bank for Investment and Finance, says that the bank has ambitions beyond Iraq’s borders, and he is keen to ensure that everything is in place to become a global player. “The International Development Bank’s success depends on many things: a strategic vision developed by the directors in line with the bank’s ambition, as well as big investments in human resources and infrastructure.”

The bank’s approach has been to identify gaps and needs for sectors within the Iraqi market and match these with services provided by the bank. This has given the bank exposure to the whole market, enabling the bank to service the community by increasing the volume of trade exchange and supporting the economy.

Iraq itself has gone through seismic political changes, yet the bank has succeeded in attracting major business through commercial financing, sponsorship and other services. Karim says that gaining the confidence of the global business community was key to this achievement.

“Iraq suffered from a long period of isolation at a time when the financial and international banks worked on setting many of the international standards we all have to work within. This created a lack of communication between Iraqi banks and the rest of the world, which weakened trust in the Iraqi banking sector. This is something we have worked on since the very beginning by investing in implementing the international standards while becoming certified at the business, technical and infrastructure levels. In addition we contracted the Big Four international audit companies for financial audit, IML, compliance and risk management.”

By contracting with these major companies, the bank was able to get a credit rating - putting them on a footing to have relations with correspondent banks and restore trust.

The other challenge facing the bank is systemic, with a low level of financial inclusion: currently 80 per cent of Iraqi society is outside the banking system. Karim is determined to fix this problem:

“Banks are for-profit businesses, but at the same time we have a moral and ethical responsibility towards society. Banks build countries and improve the lives of citizens.

As a financial institution, we have reduced the burden and pressure that fell on the shoulders of government banks. We offer our services in a broader way to Iraqi society. In addition we are now contributing in many sectors in support of the government in areas such as housing.”

Other efforts, such as technology and electronic payments are transforming the day-to-day financial landscape for citizens and shifting the government itself to a digital future.

The bank has plans to further grow in Iraq, reaching 26 branches to cover all governorates within the country. And with the bank now beginning to become a presence in the UAE, the bank and the country it serves a clear path to a bright and prosperous future.