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UAE, Dubai 2012 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Rick Pudner, Group CEO of Emirates NBD, on the banking system, expectations for the capital markets, and Dubai's economic outlook.

Rick Pudner
BIOGRAPHY
Rick Pudner was appointed CEO of Emirates Bank in early 2006, joining from HSBC, where he worked for over 24 years in a number of senior roles in various locations around the world, including South Korea and the Middle East. He also held the positions of Chairman of the Foreign Investors Advisory Council for the Mayor of Seoul, Chairman of the European Union Banking Committee in Korea, and Vice-Chairman of the Foreign Bankers Group in Korea. Pudner currently sits on the boards of Emirates Investment Service, the Economic Development Council, Emirates Fund Managers (Jersey), and Emirates Financial Services.

What are the strengths of the banking system in the Emirate?

Over the last 40 years, Dubai has transformed its economy to consist of international trade, banking, tourism, real estate, and manufacturing. The government's investment in transportation, telecommunications, energy, and industrial infrastructure has opened up many routes to an extensive foreign trade network. Coupled with the incredible infrastructure and the safe political environment it offers its residents, Dubai has emerged as a leading regional commercial hub and a world-class business environment. Dubai's ability to overcome the financial crisis that occurred in 2008 reflects strong government support that enables the Emirate to be a stable and conducive environment for prosperity.

Emirates NBD is the UAE's largest lender. Do you see banks in the region increasing lending levels in the near future?

Given recent global economic events, the outlook has become more cautious and uncertain. As a result, we are expecting lower levels of loan growth than before. For 2012, we are aiming for gross loan growth at around 4%-5%, with contributions from both retail and corporate lending.

How is the recent takeover of Dubai Bank by Emirates NBD demonstrative of the Dubai government's desire to consolidate the banking sector?

The acquisition of Dubai Bank by Emirates NBD signals a new phase rich in opportunities for both banks. The transaction closed against a cash consideration equal to the fair value of the entity acquired. The financial results of Dubai Bank were consolidated on October 11, 2011 without any impact on the group's net profits or non-performing loan (NPL) ratio on the date of the takeover. The recent integration of Dubai Bank ATMs within the Emirates NBD network has been a successful and important milestone in the integration process. In the coming months, Emirates NBD will complete the next phase of integration that will enable Dubai Bank customers to access new options, such as utility bill payments, when using Emirates NBD ATMs.

What was the strategy behind the creation of the Center of Operational Excellence known as Tanfeeth?

Building on the success of Network International, the creation of Tanfeeth was a strategic decision aimed at providing world-class services to the bank as well as its external clients across many industries. The decision was of great value to Emirates NBD as it offers opportunities to reengineer our processes and introduce global best-practice tools and technology that will improve efficiency and enhance the quality of the service that we offer customers.

What are your expectations for Dubai's capital markets in 2012?

Emirates NBD has continued to boost its drive toward increased transparency with analysts, investors, and customers at large, enabling further business opportunities while aiding the capital markets. In recent months, the Gulf's capital markets have witnessed a surge in sukuk and conventional bond issuance as markets have improved, following the tight global conditions in 2011. Other parts of the world are seeing the value of tapping these markets, especially Asia. Other sources of finance are emerging with the development of the offshore renminbi (CNY) market, funding that is proving very attractive. Emirates NBD recently launched a CNY1 billion bond, which attracted strong investor appetite and was priced at a competitive level.

How active is Emirates NBD in corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities?

In line with its vision and mission, Emirates NBD is committed to engaging all its stakeholders in a sustainable and responsible manner, making it one of the most active financial institutions in the community with a clear CSR strategy. Over the last year, Emirates NBD has worked to support and develop three focus areas in its community: education, environmental issues, and health care. As we are a group driven by customer satisfaction, our numerous golfing events give us the opportunity to please our internal and external customers. At Emirates NBD, we are aware of the passion and excitement one feels when golfing next to champions. Horse racing is a national UAE sport, and one that we share a passion for at Emirates NBD. As a highly competitive, pedigree sport, horse racing is aligned to our own values of success and ancestral heritage. Therefore, Emirates NBD is the Dubai World Cup official banking partner and sponsor. Having established a firm place among the top thoroughbred racing events in the world, the Dubai World Cup attracts a global audience each year. Our sponsorship also provides us with invaluable international exposure that goes hand-in-hand with participating in this high-profile event and helps strengthen our brand recognition.