UAE's largest lender optimistic about recovery as it appoints first female CEO

First Abu Dhabi Bank appoints Hana Al Rostamani as CEO succeeding Andre Sayegh, who retires after 21 years

First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE’s largest lender by assets, appointed its first female chief executive and said it expects underlying operating performance to improve in 2021, driven by a healthy pipeline of business from government and state-related bodies and by a recent acquisition in Egypt.

The lender sees a gradual recovery in the UAE's economic outlook as it expects oil prices to stabilise, stimulus measures to support foreign investment and improving business sentiment on the back of the UAE's mass vaccination drive, FAB said in an investor presentation on Wednesday. The bank said it is optimistic about a gradual recovery in key sectors such as trade, services, logistics and tourism.

"Looking ahead and despite ongoing uncertainties, we expect a gradual recovery as the Covid-19 vaccine rollout gathers momentum, and government stimulus measures support the economic rebound," James Burdett, group chief financial officer at FAB, said. "Against this backdrop, FAB enters 2021 in a position of strength."

The bank posted a full-year net profit of Dh10.6 billion, 16 per cent less than 2019, due to lower revenue and higher impairment charges.

"Profitability was lower year-on-year reflecting unprecedented market conditions, record low interest rates and the pandemic-driven economic slowdown," it said.

Annual revenue fell 8 per cent to Dh18.6bn while net impairment charges rose 42 per cent in 2020.

FAB recommended a cash dividend distribution of 74 fils per share for the full year ending December 31, 2020.

The bank also named Hana Al Rostamani as its first female group chief executive, a significant step for gender diversity in the male-dominated banking sector.

First Abu Dhabi Bank’s headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy First Abu Dhabi Bank

Ms Al Rostamani will succeed Andre Sayegh, who will retire from the role next month after 21 years with the bank.

Ms Al Rostamani has more than 22 years of local and international experience in the banking and financial services industry and has served as an independent director in Emirates Integrated Telecommunication Company. She was vice-chairperson of the Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Services. Currently, she is the chairperson of FAB Private Bank Suisse.

"FAB has always been an organisation that champions diversity and the appointment of our first female group chief executive to lead our company into the future is truly something to value," Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed, chairman of FAB, said.

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