Customers with accounts at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union National Bank and Al Hilal Bank – the three entities set to unite in the latest UAE merger - should continue their transactions as normal until the deal is complete, according to the three financial institutions.
"It is business as usual at ADCB, and there is no need to take any additional action," ADCB said on the website beyondambition.com in an FAQ dedicated to customers. The bank said the merger is driven by a desire to provide "excellent customer service and a wider range of products and services".
The boards of ADCB and UNB agreed to a merger on Tuesday to create an entity that will take over Al Hilal Bank and become the third largest lender in the UAE with an asset base of Dh420 billion.
The new entity will form “a new, more powerful and resilient banking group” which will be called ADCB, the bank said. Al Hilal Bank will retain its existing name and brand, and will continue to operate as a separate Islamic entity within the new banking group.
In a series of questions answered by all three banks on the consumer website, customers were reassured that nothing will change until the merger is finalised in the first half of this year.
ADCB stated that banking products and services will continue as usual, with the same terms. Customers can also continue to apply for new services, as all three banks will continue operating as separate entities “for now”.
“As the three banks combine, we will do everything we can to ensure minimal changes to your services, and will inform you well ahead of time if there are any,” the bank said. “ When the merger happens, you will automatically become a customer of the new bank and we will do our best to ensure this is a seamless transition.”
The banks said the integration process would happen "stage by stage" with an assessment of whether to retain all the existing branches taking place once the merger is finalised.
Keren Bobker, a consumer columnist with The National and an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets, said any bank merger will include "a degree of disruption".
“While the merged bank should have a larger number of branches overall, it is likely that some will be closed in due course,” she said. “Customers don’t need to be worried as mergers do happen and it makes sense to reduce the total number of retail banks operating in the UAE. However, it may be wise for customers to have access to cash, either from another account with an unrelated bank or that they have physical cash to hand, for when the actual merge takes place.”
Late last year, First Abu Dhabi Bank, formed by the merger of First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi in April last 2017, closed its doors from 1pm on Thursday, November 29 to the end of Monday, December 3 to give the bank time to integrate the two banks’ IT systems.
Personal finance expert Steve Cronin, the founder of deadsimplesaving.com, said the merger will see customers benefit from more competitive mortgage and product rates, easier access to finance as well as better security and online and mobile platforms.
However, he warned some customers may find their favourite products disappear or they may experience technological disruption during the merger process.
“If the merger takes too long, there may be a period of confusion while one brand still runs three systems," he added.
According to a statement from Egyptian investment bank EFG-Hermes, the process should be fast.
“The execution of this merger has been impressively quick: both transactions (merger and acquisition) are expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2019,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Mr Cronin advised customers to speak to their relationship managers to discuss how their mortgage, credit card and savings accounts would be affected.
"They should also check their bank can guarantee rates or fees over the long-term,” he said.
The banks said until the merger is effective, there will be no impact on customer’s credit limits.
“Following the merger, we will assess matters such as credit limits on a case-by-case basis, in compliance with UAE banking regulations,” they said.
Mr Cronin advised customers to read all the information sent from their bank and report any account issues immediately.
“Push for attention if resolution is delayed and be aware of any branch or online closure periods due to the integration and plan,” he added. “Don’t get overly worried though – most bank mergers are fairly smooth and your money will not disappear.”