Your Money blog: Five quick questions with The Debt Panel’s new expert

Philip King, head of retail banking, UAE at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, says there are three key things we should all do to manage our finances better: budget, pay our debts on time and contact the bank if we are in trouble.

Philip King is the head of retail banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
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The Debt Panel has a new banking expert from today: Philip King, head of retail banking, UAE at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB). Mr King takes the place of ADIB’s Jamal Alvi, who for the last year has been offering his take on how residents in the UAE should better handle their liabilities.

Mr King, from the UK, has three decades of experience in banking across Europe, the Americas and the Middle East. He joined ADIB in 2013 after a stint at Citibank. Here he answers five quick questions on the debt issues facing many residents in the Emirates:

What will you bring to the debt panel?

I’m looking forward to helping people better organise their financial lives. Part of our mission at ADIB is to educate UAE consumers on how to better manage their financial lives and their debt. The diversity of the debt panel is one of its strengths and I will be presenting the banking perspective.

Why do you think so many UAE residents are still contacting The Debt Panel for help?

I think consumers want advice from bankers on how to manage their finances better and they want to be educated, but often don’t know where to look. There is a strong need in the UAE for financial education. Based on our own research, which makes this need clear, we have developed our own financial education campaign and see a widespread need for initiatives like ours, and The Debt Panel in the UAE.

What should UAE residents be doing differently to avoid getting into debt?

Educate, educate, educate. Read about financial management, ask questions, and share your knowledge and experiences with others. Our own smart money booklet gives a great grounding in the basics of responsible financial management. On a more practical level, consumers should only take on debt if they are going to purchase things that create value. Their debt should never exceed 15 per cent of total revenue, and it is wise to consolidate debt whenever possible — for example under the type of debt consolidation programme we offer at ADIB called Al Khair.

What can the banking community do to help residents avoid getting into such high levels of debt?

Initiatives like The Debt Panel are a great first step — we need to educate and create awareness first of all. Just as important is that banks establish a transparent approach to explaining fees and the cost of finance, and give consumers the right products to match their needs.

And finally, what are the key things we should all be doing to better manage our finances?

Three things: keep a budget, pay your debts on time, and talk to your bank before your finances get you in trouble.