UBF in sync with regulator to ensure banks support UAE economy

Lenders have already rolled out initiatives to reduce the economic woes of clients struggling due to coronavirus measures

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September 13, 2017:    Abdulaziz Al Ghurair, chief executive officer of Mashreq Bank during an interview at his office in the Mashreq Bank headquarters, in the Diera area of Dubai September 13, 2017. Christopher Pike / The National

Reporter: Mahmoud Kassem
Section: Business
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The banking and finance industry is vital to the financial health of the country and its main trade body is working “hand in hand” with the central bank to ensure continuity of operations, the chairman of the UAE Banks Federation  said.

“As a critical industry, the banking sector has an especially unique responsibility to safeguard society and the economic environment,” Abdulaziz Al Ghurair, who is also the chairman of Dubai-based Mashreq bank, said following the first virtual meeting of the UBF board.

“This will continue to be our utmost priority, and we will do whatever it takes to fullfil our mandate to support banks and [the] local community as we navigate through this uncertainty together.”

The meeting also discussed initiatives that UBF, a body representing 53 lenders in the country, will roll out this year. These measures are aimed at increasing innovation in the banking industry, enhancing Emiratisation and supporting the country's real estate sector, a significant contributor to national economic activity.

Support for the real estate sector and development of the mortgage market in the UAE, the second-biggest Arab economy, were among the priorities laid out by the Central Bank of the UAE in its Dh100 billion economic stimulus package announced earlier this month.

The regulator's Targeted Economic Support includes Dh50bn from central bank funds through collateralised loans at zero cost to all banks operating in the UAE and Dh50bn of funds freed from banks’ capital buffers. The package also includes measures that will help facilitate access to finance for small and medium-sized firms and reduce fees that will help soften the impact of Covid-19 on the country’s economy.

The package will “give a significant boost to the UAE banking sector and have [a] far-reaching impact on various sectors that underpin the economy”, Mr Al Ghurair said in a March 15 statement. “The UAE banking sector has sufficient liquidity and is adequately capitalised and we are well-positioned to weather challenges that lie ahead.”

Dubai banks – including Emirates NBD, Mashreq, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Dubai Islamic Bank and Emirates Islamic – have already released a package of financial initiatives for their clientele, which includes fee waivers and loan instalment holidays. Abu Dhabi lenders, including First Abu Dhabi Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, have also offered similar relief to their customers in a bid to help ease financial strains.

“It is important that we [do] not lose sight of our vision during these difficult times, and continue to promote growth and transformation across the industry for the benefit of the wider country,” Mr Al Ghurair said.

“Whether it is tackling the ever-changing challenges in the market, or fostering policies and frameworks to drive innovation, we are continuously working towards a sustainable and diversified economy to secure a better future for the entire nation.”

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