UAE working on initiatives to enable instant payments, Central Bank says

The banking regulator is also looking at improving the consumer protection framework in the country

The payments landscape in the UAE is rapidly changing amid the digital transformation in the sector. Alamy
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The UAE is currently working on initiatives to implement a financial market infrastructure that will enable instant payments in the country, the Central Bank of the UAE said.

The move will “support the transformation of the payment landscape” in the UAE, it said in a statement on Tuesday, following a meeting with bank chief executives.

Officials also discussed the consumer protection framework in the country, including complaints management, and the planned establishment of an ombudsman unit named Sanadak.

The unit will be a “unique consumer complaint resolution mechanism in the Middle East region that will provide easy access and quick turnaround for resolution of consumer complaints”, the statement said.

The Central Bank also highlighted the progress of Emiratisation initiatives that seek to increase the number of Emiratis employed in the banking sector this year, in line with the UAE national agenda.

“We at the Central Bank are keen on holding these periodic meetings with the bank chief executives to discuss the updates and initiatives that would enhance the banking sector and support the transformation of the UAE’s financial infrastructure, to be among the best central banks and financial systems globally,” Khaled Balama, governor of the Central Bank, said.

“We also appreciate role of banks in the development of the sector as they welcomed the initiatives discussed during the meeting.”

The payments landscape in the UAE is rapidly changing amid the digital transformation in the sector following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Trends in the payments industry — including buy now, pay later platforms, digital wallets and contactless card models — are gaining traction locally.

More than half of all residents now use digital wallets as online payments increased after the pandemic, payments solutions provider said in a recent report. These have become more popular among the younger generation.

Meanwhile, more than half of consumers in the UAE plan to go cashless by 2024, compared with the global average of 41 per cent, a Visa study earlier this year showed.

The majority of Middle East consumers are also leaning towards digital banking, with 61 per cent in the UAE preferring to transact using online channels, US technology company Entrust said in a March report.

Overall, the UAE's banking system has “remained resilient throughout the pandemic, with a broad-based and robust recovery evident across key banking system indicators during 2022“, the Central Bank said.

The regulator “introduced comprehensive support measures throughout the pandemic and a well-sequenced exit strategy that balanced between a gradual lifting of emergency measures and continued support of the recovery”, it said.

The aggregate net profit of the UAE's 10 largest banks increased more than 24 per cent quarter on quarter in the April to June period this year, boosted by a significant jump in their net interest income, consultancy Alvarez & Marsal said last month.

The cumulative net income for the three months to the end of June climbed to Dh12.6 billion ($3.43bn), the consultancy said.

Updated: September 20, 2022, 5:30 PM