Iraq Banks Adopt Technology to Boost Business

Iraq’s bankers are working to modernize and build a banking sector that is crucial to the country’s economic resurgence.

One such example is the National Bank of Iraq, a Baghdad-listed lender with eight branches. The Bank has announced that it will introduce internet and mobile banking this year as well as install 20 ATMs, which is seen as a major step for a bank that operates in a predominantly cash-based economy with outdated technology.

At a recent business conference promoting finance in Iraq, the National Bank of Iraq’s vice-chairman Ayman Abu-Dhaim recognized the advancement, saying, “We’re coming from traditional, manual banking: this is a revolution.”

The National Bank of Iraq is just one of nearly 40 lenders operating in Iraq. The bank competes with other local, many family-owned, banks and a growing number of international financial groups such as Standard Chartered and Citigroup.

Standard Chartered Iraq’s Gavin Wishart said the country’s banks need to adopt modern technology to become more efficient.“Certain banks in Iraq that embrace technology, digitization and broaden their offering of consumer banking products…these are the banks of the future,” Mr. Wishart said.

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimates, Iraq’s gross domestic product could grow at an average of 7% between now and 2024, effectively tripling the size of the economy.

Also at the conference, Sami al-Araji, chairman of Iraq’s National Investment Commission, reported a $357 billion nationwide investment plan aimed at jumpstarting Iraq’s economy.

For the original January 27, 2014 piece from The Wall Street Journal referenced in this summary, click here.