gulf-bankKUWAIT: Moody's Investors Service, one of the world's leading international credit ratings agency, has upgraded Gulf Bank's long term deposit rating to "A3" from "Baa1" and the standalone baseline credit assessment (BCA) to "ba1" from "ba2". The Bank's short-term deposit ratings were affirmed at Prime-2 and Moody's has revised the outlook on long-term ratings to stable from positive.

The upgrade in ratings is significant as it comes in an era of declining oil prices and a weakening global economy. With this upgrade the bank today has three "A" ratings from all leading rating agencies in the world.

This progress has been recognized not only by Moody's, but also by the other two leading international credit ratings agencies, Standard & Poor's (S&P) and Fitch Ratings over the last several years. In June 2015, S&P raised Gulf Bank's long-term credit rating to "A-", with a stable outlook. The ratings upgrade noted the Bank's long-term growth and rebuilding strategy. Fitch Ratings has Gulf Bank's long-term issuer default rating (IDR) at "A+" and this is reflective of the work completed by the bank in undertaking a wide ranging restructure of its portfolio and working out significant volumes of impaired loans. It also reflects the bank's lower risk appetite.

According to Moody's, the recent rating upgrade action was driven by the continuing improvements in asset quality and provisioning coverage metrics, the strengthening of the bank's risk management practices, a further reduction of balance sheet risk, the expectation that core profitability will remain resilient and capitalization buffers will remain adequately driven by a conservative implementation of Basel III capital requirements by the Central Bank of Kuwait. They also noted the Bank's improvements in risk-management practices and tightened underwriting standards. The Bank's continued reduction in credit concentrations and lessened exposure to high-risk segments was also cited, along with its resilient core profitability and adequacy of its capital buffers.

Gulf Bank's management team, with the support and guidance from the Chairman of the Board, and its staff remain committed to continuing our policy of prudency and good governance. The Bank has continued to make steady progress and reach milestones in its growth strategy. It has achieved this by restructuring, focusing on streamlining operations, improving service, and introducing products that better serve customers.

The Bank has also made significant investments towards enhancing its infrastructure, systems and processes and is also actively recruiting outstanding talent. The products and services enhancement is progressing well and over the last year, the Bank has revamped two of its customer segment proposition and new accounts coming from those segments have grown at double digit rates. The Bank's credit cards business has also continued its strong performance with double digit loan growth. Recently, the Bank also launched is loyalty program Gulf Rewards along with a special technology platform to facilitate redemptions. In terms of wholesale banking, our corporate banking group was reorganized to reflect key market segments and to deliver a broader suite of products and services with faster, more efficient customer service for local needs. Other innovations include new cash management products, a new collections system, and series of process automation initiatives to improve controls in our branches have also been implemented.

Gulf Bank is currently celebrating its 55th anniversary and remains committed to being innovative, raising standards, and setting the benchmark for banking excellence in the region.