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9 August, 2011

‘There’s a Girl Here’ Proves Recipe for Bank Growth in Mideast - Bethlehem University Graduate Makes International News

There's a girl hereBy Simon Clark - Aug 8, 2011 -

Reem Qaraqe ['07] was a novelty at the Bethlehem branch of Bank of Palestine (BOP), and she says some customers didn’t hide their astonishment. “There’s a girl here,” was a typical remark. “Why?”

As the branch’s first female teller, Qaraqe says she quietly fumed as she endured teasing and disrespect. She had about reached her limit the day Munjed the fish seller showed up, unfurled a wad of smelly shekels, threw it on the counter and commanded her to deposit it. She says her first notion was to hit him. Instead, she decided to try extreme politeness.

“I said, please sir, count your money and then give it back. He was shocked,” says Qaraqe, 26, who wears a grey suit, white blouse and pink scarf to work. “The next week, he came in saying, ‘Hi Reem, how are you? Please make the deposit.’ He was a different guy. Now I’m his best friend at the bank.”

The encounter in December 2007 was a turning point for Qaraqe, who has an accounting degree from Bethlehem University. She says she realized that with the right attitude she could gain even the most irascible customer’s confidence, supporting her boss’s theory about how to attract depositors in an aspiring country with a fledgling financial sector: hire women.

“The more I get women representing the bank, it brings more money,” says Hashim Shawa, 35, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Ramallah-based bank founded by his grandfather in 1960. “Hiring women is directly correlated with growth, better business, better reputation, better customer satisfaction, more trust and less staff turnover.”

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