Zand, the Emirates’ first digital bank that aims to cater to retail and corporate clients, has been granted a banking licence from the UAE Central Bank to become Zand Bank.
By successfully securing a UAE banking licence, Zand is now authorised and regulated to operate as a fully independent commercial bank, it said in a statement on Tuesday.
“We are thrilled that Zand has reached another milestone and is now a fully licensed bank … yet another excellent example of the UAE’s pioneering vision of having progressive regulations that drive FinTech innovation,” said Zand chairman Mohamed Alabbar.
“With a UAE banking licence, we look forward to commencing our innovative banking services and contributing to the UAE’s legacy of innovation as well as economic growth.”
The rise of FinTech companies, an increasingly smartphone-savvy consumer base and a sharp increase in digital services have forced banks worldwide to increasingly invest in digitisation and reduce the number of branches.
The concept of digital-only banks is also gaining traction in the UAE due to the rise in 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 unveiling 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 Central Bank in April last year.
“We got our banking licence on June 30 and we celebrated by welcoming our first corporate customers,” Zand’s co-founder and chief executive Olivier Crespin said.
“Zand’s corporate offerings will be made available to our customers incrementally. We look forward to revealing our full innovative banking services and expanding them to key sectors of the UAE economy.”
Some of Zand’s backers include 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 the Lulu Group.
Founded in 2018, the Dubai-headquartered lender said it is activating its strategic partnerships with regional and international companies to provide its corporate customers with a banking experience “underpinned by security, transparency and convenience, while powering up all systems and connections for its personal banking launch phase”.
Zand offers corporates a range of services — from easy onboarding and fast account opening to an automated loan approval process — to enhance their digital banking experience.
The lender also aims to launch personal banking solutions later this year and has invited users to register their interest to be one of the first to experience Zand.