The Current State of the UAE Banking System

Banks in the United Arab Emirates

Over the past few decades, the UAE has experienced exceptional growth in infrastructure and business due to a government that openly encourages business and attracts savvy entrepreneurs from around the world. This has brought the UAE to the world stage as a business an economic center in not just the Middle East, but one of the major hubs for the global economy.

Yes, the last few years have seen recession in Dubai and the UAE, but its strength and imminence as a world financial center remains solid as its prospects continue to remain bright. Truly, the recent financial struggles in the region, the EU, and the world at large have required banks and financial institutes to adapt, evolve, and outgrow creeping obsolescence. The institutes that remain today are modern, adaptive, and equipped to face the challenges of business for years to come.

How UAE Banks compare to global leaders in the banking sector
A quick reading of the Britain’s oldest financial magazine, The Banker, reveals that 10 of UAE’s banks current rank among the 500 most powerful in the world. Here are some other interesting facts to be gleaned about UAE banks from The Banker’s list:

– Four UAE banks rank in the top half of the list, or top 250.
– The top ranked UAE bank is Emirates NBD at 142nd place. Emirates received an AA or “very strong” rating.
– NBAD (The National Bank of Abu Dhabi) placed 156th and also received an AA rating and rose from its previous rank of 199th place.
– First Gulf Bank was third at 217th place, and Commercial Bank of Abu Dhabi was fourth at 248th place.

Types of Banks in UAE

There are two main types of banks in the UAE: (1) local or national registered or joint stock banks licensed in accordance with UAE Law 10 of 1980 and (2) banks that are branches of foreign finance and investment firms operating under a license they’ve received from the UAE’s Central Bank.

One issue facing the UAE is that the number of branches and banks in the country grew so quickly that a disparity arose between the actual n umber and the needs of the local market. This resulted in the UAE authorities stopping the issuing of any licenses to new banks or branches of foreign banks. Currently there is a maximum of 8 companies allowed to have foreign branches in the UAE and 330 national banks.

– National or Domestic Banks
Some of the largest and most popular banks in the UAE are domestic. These include the Bank of Dubai and the Commercial Bank of Dubai as well as more specialized banks. For example, there are several successful banks that operate on Islamic financial principals like Mashreq Bank and Dubai Islamic Bank. Meshreq is one of the few banks in UAE to provide the type of ecommerce solutions that are more and more in demand as mobile markets take over personal and business finance services.

Emirates NBD Bank is another leading national bank created by the merger of Emirates Bank and National Bank of Dubai. The success of this merger has led to the rise of the possibility of even more such mergers in the UAE banking sector.

– Branches of Foreign Banks operating in the UAE
There are several secure options for expatriates, visitors, and other foreign individuals working and living in Dubai who wish to have an account with a bank or group from their home country. For example, Europe’s largest bank, HSBC, runs a branch in the UAE that has offered excellent mortgage rates in UAE – nearly half the average during peaks. Standard Charter Bank operates a branch in the UAE as well and offers the lowest interest rate anywhere in the country[There was an additional paragraph that looked machine translated and basically was talking about a financial crisis that happened 6+ years ago. This information is dated and makes the article look old, so I left it out opting instead for information that wasn’t repetitive and was helpful. ]. Beyond this, Barclays, Amlak, and Tamweel Mortgage Finance all offer strong offerings in their specialized finance fields.