Emirates Islamic received an 'A+' rating from Fitch. What does this rating mean for the bank?
Emirates Islamic was established in 2004 and over the years, has emerged as the fastest-growing bank in the UAE. The bank has set a good example for the industry by undertaking a journey of transformation over the last four years, extending its reach to significant new customer segments and delivering exceptional performance. The strong performance, marking 15 consecutive quarters of top-line growth, is backed by well-diversified lines of business. The recent 'A+' rating by Fitch places Emirates Islamic among the highest-rated banks in the UAE, reaffirming Emirates Islamic's position as an important bank to the UAE economy and a key contributor to growth not only in the Islamic banking sector but the overall banking sector in the UAE. As Emirates Islamic continues on its growth journey, the rating will increase confidence in the bank, both from investors and depositors. Backed by our strong financials and solid management team, I am confident that Emirates Islamic is poised to take a leadership position in the sector and continue to support Dubai in its aim of becoming the global capital of the Islamic economy.
Last year was the “Year of Innovation" in the UAE. What innovations and smart banking services are you offering to your clients?
Islamic banking is relatively new, with the first commercial Islamic bank set up only 40 years back. However, in this short span of time, the sector has made rapid advances in the innovation and development of banking products and services and in many cases has outpaced its conventional counterparts. I am proud to say that Emirates Islamic has been at the forefront of this drive to innovation. Innovation is always at the core of all our offerings and we have taken an active role in developing and launching a range of products and services that are trendsetters across the industry. We are committed to fulfilling the vision of the nation's leadership to transform Dubai into a smart city. We have proven repeatedly that we can innovate rapidly to support the economy and the community. In 2014, we partnered with Nasdaq Dubai to launch the Nasdaq Dubai Murabaha Platform, which provides a unique solution for Emirates Islamic as well as other financial institutions and their corporate and individual customers to conduct Islamic financing transactions in a streamlined, flexible, and transparent manner. In less than a year since its launch, the platform has achieved rapid growth, with transactions turnover exceeding AED40 billion. We were the first Islamic bank in the UAE to launch a mobile banking app and the first bank in the Middle East to launch an App on the Windows 8 mobile platform. In 2015, we launched EI trade, the world's first fully-integrated online Islamic trade finance and supply chain platform, offering the bank's corporate and business customers an electronic platform to initiate trade finance transactions, such as LC issuance and amendment, on a secured system available 24/7. At Emirates Islamic, innovation is a never-ending process. We continuously engage with our customers, students from schools and universities, and our employees to generate ideas and suggest innovations that can then be rolled out to the market. Our management teams travel to various countries regularly to learn about the latest developments and technologies, which will have an impact on banking in the future.
What are your thoughts about the current regulation supporting Islamic finance?
Currently, the banking regulations that support Islamic finance are not sufficient and this is clearly recognized by the Central Bank of the UAE. Further improvements need to be made to legal regulations to support the growth of the industry. In 2015, Islamic banks are expected to continue outpacing conventional banks in annual growth. Many initiatives have been launched over the past to support the industry and I am sure there are many more to come.
Emirates Islamic was one of the headline partners of the Global Islamic Economy Summit 2015. What was the outcome of this event and what impact does it have on the development of Dubai as a global Islamic economy?
The Islamic economy is thriving across the globe, growing at nearly twice the rate of the global economy, with Muslim consumer spending across sectors exceeding $1.8 trillion. The Islamic travel market, for example, stands today at $142 billion and is expected to be at $233 billion by 2020. Obviously this growth will not be possible without financial and banking support and, as Islamic banks, we will be natural partners in the growth stories of companies operating in the halal industry. At Emirates Islamic, we see the growth of Islamic economy sectors like food, travel, pharmaceuticals, media, and fashion as huge opportunities. We are standing on the edge of a historic opportunity. With a well-defined roadmap and the collective efforts of all parties in the Islamic economy, we can rapidly grow the market. Dubai, in particular, enjoys a unique mix of characteristics that entitles it to claim the right to be capital of the Islamic economy. As an established international business hub with state-of-the-art infrastructure in a strategic location and time zone, Dubai continues to be a magnet for businesses across the world. I am confident that the UAE and Dubai can make a significant impact to the growth of the Islamic economy.
During GIES 2015, Emirates Islamic launched the first consumer-focused survey on Islamic Banking in the UAE. What were the major challenges in doing such a research and what were the most interesting findings?
As one of the leading Islamic banks in the UAE, we realized that, currently, there is a significant lack of data on one of the most important stakeholders in Islamic banking; the consumer. One of the key enablers to the continued growth of Islamic banking is richer and accurate data reporting on the sector. With this in mind, we launched the first edition of the ISLAMIC BANKING INDEX by EMIRATES ISLAMIC™, which will act as a standardized benchmark to help track the key measures around Islamic banking year over year and aim to assist all industry players by informing them on the gaps and perceptions in the market. The launch of the index also marks our continued commitment to the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai to make the Emirate the global capital of the Islamic economy. The index analyzed four key indicators; penetration, perception, knowledge, and intention, and creates a benchmark that brings together perception and reality on the status of the Islamic banking industry in UAE. The index reveals more than just the attitudes and opinions of people in the UAE towards Islamic Banking. It also creates a pathway to the solutions that will enable us to drive the continued growth of Islamic banking in the UAE. Three out of four people in the UAE are willing to consider using an Islamic banking product, clearly marking an opportunity for the industry as we continue on our path to become the global center of the Islamic economy. Trust, fairness, and community responsibility are core pillars of the Islamic banking proposition and clearly people associate with that. Yet, the same consumers also want the best products, technology, and service, which will drive us to continue on our journey of launching more innovations going forward.