STEADY GROWTH

UAE, Sharjah 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Saeed M. Al Amiri, Executive Vice-President, Head of Investment Group of Sharjah Islamic Bank (SIB), on attracting investment, aligning with fintech services, and turning challenges into opportunities.

Saeed M. Al Amiri
BIOGRAPHY
Saeed M. Al Amiri joined SIB in 2002 and has served as the Head of Investment Group since 2007, which has three business extensions: investment banking, treasury, and financial institutions. He holds an MBA from the University of Sharjah and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami. Prior to joining SIB, he worked with Sharjah Department of Economic Development. He has 16 years of experience in the banking industry. His main areas of interest are equity and debt capital markets.

SIB's profits continue to grow amid headwinds. What are the main reasons behind this success?

SIB has always been a conservative banking services provider. We believe in steady growth instead of huge peaks followed by dropping valleys. This is in our DNA and the sponsors and bank's Board of Directors endeavor to see a consistent approach in increasing assets and profitability. The shareholders like to see stable growth and increase in shareholder value. At the same time, our continual focus on steady growth allows us to tap into new areas. While we have been well established in Sharjah, the bank has been expanding its footprint in the rest of the country. It is adding new customers in corporate, retail, and government businesses. Similarly, investment banking is a key area and has been growing at a decent pace, allowing us to increase our revenues.

What role can SIB play in encouraging investment in the UAE in general and Sharjah in particular?

No country can prosper without a sound and stable financial system in which banks play a pivotal role. The UAE is blessed with an encouraging financial services and banking sector that allows businesses to operate openly in the country. The policies of UAE governments have always existed to encourage foreign investment. We have seen the fruits of these policies; when regional economies faced many difficulties after the Arab Spring, the UAE became a magnet for capital and investment. The ability to hold the Expo 2020 and further expansion plans are an embodiment of these policies. In Sharjah, we see an increasing impetus from the government on infrastructure development and attracting FDI. There are two free zones in Sharjah, both of which are served by SIB. We encourage financing facilities for projects in the Emirate and look to provide financing solutions to our clients. We hope to offer more attractive solutions to our prospective customers, providing them with a one-stop solution while investing in the country.

What is your opinion on the two conflicting schools of thought regarding fintech?

Technology has brought about the best from existing brick-and-mortar businesses. There is, for sure, room for technology to bring about change in banking systems. That said, banks depend on the trust of their customers, especially depositors. The need for brick-and-mortar banks will always remain; however, technology will complement banking services. As greater emphasis on smart services takes place, we will see technology in banking become more aggressive. Fintech is the next big thing in banking and is quickly taking root. While it may seem threatening, it will bring the best out of banks and allow them to be more customer centric. We have invested heavily in improving core banking systems, introducing impressive internet banking and mobile banking facilities to customers.

What are your expectations for 2017?

We expect the bank to post high single-digit or low double-digit growth in assets, credit, and profitability. We have increased our capital by issuing bonus shares and are likely to increase capital 10% by issuing a convertible sukuk, which will convert into equity of the bank and will not be tradable. The additional 10% of shares will be issued to an endowment that will be nominated by HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Federal Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. Overall, in the banking sector, we expect challenges, which we will then to turn into opportunities. SIB's capital and strong investment grade ratings are the pillars that will allow us to convert challenges into opportunities.