UAE digital bank Zand wins backing from Aditya Birla Group and Franklin Templeton

The bank is awaiting final regulatory approval from the UAE Central Bank and is preparing for an 'imminent launch'

Zand's chairman Mohamed Alabbar is also among the bank's shareholders. AFP
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Zand, the UAE's first digital bank that will cater to retail and corporate clients, has unveiled new international and local shareholders as it prepares for an “imminent launch” in the country.

India's Aditya Birla Group (Solfrid Investments), global investment manager Franklin Templeton, UAE's Al Hail Holding, Dubai-based Al Sayyah and Sons Investments, Abu Dhabi holding company Global Development Group and Yusuff Ali, chairman of Lulu Group, are among its new backers, Zand said on Tuesday.

Other shareholders include Zand's chairman Mohamed Alabbar and its chief executive and co-founder Olivier Crespin.

“We have a strong group of shareholders who believe in creating long-term value for our customers. With their support, Zand is set to reshape the future of banking,” said Mr Alabbar.

The concept of digital-only banks is gaining traction in the UAE on the back of an increasingly digital-savvy consumer base and the rise of FinTech opportunities.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which led to lockdowns around the world, hastened the move into digital services as consumers switched to cashless payments and online shopping.

Some traditional financial institutions have already set up neobanks, with lenders such as Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Emirates NBD and Mashreq launching digital-forward operations through Hayyak, Liv and Mashreq Neo, respectively.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, the biggest Sharia-compliant lender in the emirate, launched a digital-only bank called Amwali last year.

Independent digital banks are also entering the market, including Al Maryah Community Bank, which secured a licence from the UAE Central Bank in April last year.

Last week, Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ also announced that it received in-principle approval from the banking regulator to launch Wio, a new digital banking platform.

The total invested capital in the Abu Dhabi-based Wio is Dh2.3 billion ($626 million) plus “in-kind contribution”, with its shareholders including ADQ, Alpha Dhabi, Etisalat and First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Zand is currently awaiting final regulatory approval from the UAE Central Bank and expects to launch imminently, it said.

Its latest announcement comes after the recent acquisition of the majority shares in Dubai Bank by Zand’s shareholders.

Zand is set to reshape the future of banking
Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Zand

The new entity aims to be a “digital economic accelerator” and serve as a platform for wider digital services that focus on businesses and people.

“We have an ideal foundation to launch Zand with shareholders who encompass a complete local and international ecosystem,” said Crespin.

The bank will “build relevant products and innovative solutions that meet the needs of customers in the digital age”, he said.

Updated: February 15, 2022, 9:11 AM