‘We are able to grow our profits in these difficult market conditions due to our well-diversified income streams,’ says Ibrahim Dabdoub, NBK’s chief executive officer. ‘In the 1980s we were one of the first banks in the region to really go after the retail market and we reaped the rewards. Now we are focusing on asset management and investment banking.’

NBK has also been able to post consistent profit hikes due to close control of costs. ‘We are very strict and disciplined in this area,’ says Dabdoub. ‘We have one person solely dedicated to reducing our cost base.’

With a dominant position in its domestic market, NBK continues to eye regional expansion. Attempts to enter Egypt through acquisition stumbled at the last hurdle of negotiations and a possible plan to enter the Qatari market through the same route has also faltered. ‘We are still looking at expanding our operations in the Gulf,’ says Dabdoub. ‘And we still think the Qatari market will be the next country we enter: there are good banking prospects there.’