UAE - Economy
Peter England was appointed CEO of RAKBANK in 2013 and has implemented a strategy to diversify the bank’s balance sheet and income base in the past few years. He has played a pivotal role in the bank’s acquisition of a major stake in RAKINSURANCE. He has almost 40 years of experience in banking and has worked extensively in the UAE, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Cambodia. He has a wealth of experience in both conventional banking and Islamic finance and has a particular interest in the areas of payments and wealth management. He holds a MBA from the University of Southern Queensland and is a board member of RAKINSURANCE.
As in any crisis, the best approach is to focus on a few key things: the health and safety of our employees, customers, and stakeholders; keeping the ship afloat, namely keeping our doors, phones, and systems open and seeking ways to run the organization in a way it has never been run before; liquidity; and doing whatever it took to help our customers through the crisis. I told my team that if something is not within one of these four pillars, we do not need to do it.
Miza is one of several companies we have worked with. We are one of the first banks in the UAE to work with fintechs. In our case, we worked actively with a fintech company called Invoice Bazaar, which has a similar but different business model to Miza. We work with a company called Versify Tech Solutions, a cloud-based accounting package provider. We offer accounting solutions to our clients through our SME digital banking offering. We are also working with BitNudge, which provides us with CRM solutions. For us, it is about finding partnerships that add value, rather than hanging something on the wall that suggests we are into fintech. Miza is interesting since its initial focus is the healthcare sector. In the UAE, the space around supply chain financing and invoice financing has been fraught with challenges in the past. The whole idea of fintech, whether its automation or technology, or being able to help banks understand that what they are financing is genuine, is a huge opportunity for banks, suppliers, and buyers. We were also one of the early adopters of blockchain and were one of the first banks to partner with Ripple. We can do instant, online, real-time transfers to about 25 markets. We use SWIFT, host-to-host connections, or Ripple for our connections to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Europe and, more recently, the Philippines. We can do it without blockchain technology, but because it is in place in some banks elsewhere it makes it easier for us to connect.
Our approach is heavily SME-centric, and we do everything we can to support UAE’s economy. We have been a relatively large player in the SME sector for the past 12 years. The UAE went through a difficult period in 2014-2015, which I call the SME crisis. I suggested it was a golden opportunity to cement our place as the number-one small business bank in the UAE, and that is what we did. We decided that no matter how bad it got, we would put even more energy and effort into supporting our SME clients. RAKBANK put in great effort into becoming the number-one player. Our balance sheet in that space is not huge, but our deposit and lending activities to SMEs for companies with turnover of less than AED100 million per year makes us far and away the number-one bank—we have a 40-50% market share in that segment. COVID-19 was also a great opportunity to stand by our SME clients. We provided debt relief for up to 50% of our SME borrowers during that period, and 90% of those clients are still in business. The importance to us strategically is the most important aspect, and this differentiates us from everyone else.
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