LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

Sharjah 2020 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Excellence, experience, and efficiency are all embedded in every decision taken by UAB and everything it does.

Ahmad Abu Eideh
BIOGRAPHY
BIO Ahmad Abu Eideh joined UAB as CEO in 2019. He has over 27 years of extensive banking experience. Before joining UAB, he was CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Middle East (Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon) from 2015. He joined Standard Chartered Bank in Jordan in 2010 as CEO and held other senior positions in several international and regional banks. He graduated from Yarmouk University in Jordan and holds a degree in economics and a minor degree in finance and banking. He also attended the International Baccalaureate School in Amman.

What is your assessment of Sharjah's financial sector?

Sharjah is well diversified and has its own safeguards. There is exposure to regional and international investors, but there is a lot of local flavor, with a concentration on regional names that understand Sharjah and its culture. Importantly, the free zones have been extremely well designed. A number of industries in the UAE are based in Sharjah. Personally, I am a strong advocate of doing business in Sharjah. There is a tight-knit and knowledgeable business community here. We are still producing real estate that is affordable to all segments. General consolidation in the banking industry in the UAE is a healthy trend. It produces economies of scale. I do not subscribe to the notion that larger banks are better, but they can create efficiencies in terms of staffing, funding, and usage of resources. For us as a medium enterprise, we are under no pressure to consolidate at this stage. There are many opportunities, and we are capitalizing on that.

How can UAB utilize AI and digitalization?

It's essential for banks to move toward digital channels because customers are opting to use these channels. We need to take a proactive approach to delivering best-in-class digital services. With retail clients, the majority of people would prefer to finish all tasks online. We are reacting to it in terms of the products we will launch. Corporate clients demand efficient online capabilities that allow them to apply for letters of credit guarantees, transfers, and manage their payrolls. There is a huge benefit to going digital in terms of time, energy, money, and effort. There is great competition in terms of who provides the best digital services, but this is a competition that has no finish line. As long as it keeps evolving, we need to deal with an open mind. With that mindset, we have revamped our website and are working on providing the market with a top-notch offering. We are enhancing our retail and corporate products. We want our end product to be competitive and recognized as best in class. We are heading in this direction, and we will get there.

How are contactless payments, e-commerce, and peer-to-peer banking changing the world of finance?

They are coming in and, in some ways, are being viewed as competition to us. As long as they serve their purpose and the customer, and there is proper governance and controls, these new developments are good for the sector. Most central banks have launched a Treat your Customer Fairly regime. This is a top priority for us. At the end of the day, we are serving customers, and the whole mission is to provide the most cost effective, fair, and efficient offering. We see the human angle as an important anchor in banking. A customer may or may not trust an app or a machine but with a basic human touch, it is a much better feeling all together. These services and demographics are changing, but core banking will always be required, no matter what happens. The young generation has a completely different set of demands that we are obliged to meet efficiently. In a country like the UAE, we have an effective regulator that applies the best international practices and having such a regulator adds financial stability to the country and its well-diversified economy.

What new projects is UAB currently developing?

In general, we are enhancing our corporate banking products. Additionally, we are enhancing our treasury and cash management products and improving our turnaround time. On the retail side, we are looking at further segregation of the product offering and enhancement. Notably, we have improved our turnaround time greatly in recent months, reducing it to one-fifth in some cases. We are looking at the operations department in terms of streamlining and turnaround time. UAB has always been at the cutting edge in terms of IT. We invested heavily in infrastructure, and now the focus is on delivery channels.