ME Banking Forum Hosts eminent bankers and speakers
Abu Dhabi, 26 November 2013: The UAE Banks Federation hosted its first annual conference today (Tuesday, 26 November 2013). The Middle East Banking Forum, an invitation-only event, organised by Financial Times Live and The Banker magazine at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, drew together leaders of the UAE Banks Federation member institutions and top tier representatives of regional and international banks and financial organisations.
Formally welcoming attendees, His Excellency AbdulAziz Al-Ghurair, Chairman of the UAE Banks Federation said: “The Federation has become the active and multi-faceted face of the banking industry in the UAE. We enable our members – through our 11 different committees – to discuss issues of mutual concern, and bring together common positions which help to shape the industry today”. He added: “This has been an important year for development of the industry, and whether it is about lending limits, how mortgages are managed to avoid speculation or overheating in the real estate sector, or how the industry adopts new systems and practices, we can rely on the support of His Excellency the Governor of the Central bank and his organisation.”
In remarks made at the conference by the Governor of the UAE Central Bank, His Excellency Sultan Bin Nasser Al Suwaidi commended the working relationship with the Federation and the cooperative relationship that has been cultivated between both institutions. HE Al Suwaidi commented: “Under H.E Al Ghurair’s Chairmanship of the UAE Banks Federation, we have seen an active and inclusive Federation, taking care of and protecting the interests of its member banks and the wider population. I would like to thank H.E Al Ghurair for his proactive efforts.
“Our focus is on regulatory developments and initiatives such as financial inclusion, domestic debt market and SME financing. We look to improving regulatory frameworks and infrastructures and look forward to working with the financial community and UBF to ensure seamless progress in the years to come.”
The guest keynote speaker was John Bruton, former Irish Prime Minister and Chairman of the International Financial Services Centre Ireland. In his speech, Mr Bruton reviewed the overall global economic outlook and financial market trends as they affect the Middle East, and offered his own perceptions on how Middle Eastern financial institutions are adapting to changes in the industry.
On the UAE, Mr Bruton said: “You have a very healthy banking sector here, with a strong deposit base and a budget surplus which is the envy of other regions of the world. Despite some over-centralisation in lending, banks are supporting the diversification and future growth of the UAE’s economy.”
Presentations and panel discussions focused on current industry trends including prospects for banks in the Middle East in the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the prospects for the UAE as the regional financial hub, as well as the growth of Islamic finance both regionally and internationally. Debates also focused on Middle East merger and acquisition activities as well as trends in cross-border banking activity and issues centred on the drivers and pitfalls of expansion.
The event received strong sponsorship support of several institutions including Emirates National Bank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, First Gulf Bank, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Mashreq Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Union National Bank, National Bank of Fujeirah, Bank of Sharjah and Ajman bank.
Highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the region’s main financial centres and on the backdrop of the UAE’s continuous rapid growth in the banking industry, a panel session considered the UAE’s potential as the region’s financial hub. Participants included Fitch Ratings Director, Financial Institutions, Redmond Ramsdale as well as Zulfi Caar Hydari, Chief Executive of European Islamic Investment Banks and Khalid Ferdous Howladar, Senior Credit Officer, GCC & Islamic Financial Institution at Moody’s. The panel was followed by a session on the future of Islamic banking.
According to the The Banker’s “Top 1000 World Banks 2013”, the 92 Middle East banks in the rankings increased their Tier 1 capital by 7.9% over last year, and now account for 3.7% of the global Tier 1 capital represented by the banks listed in the report. The UAE banking sector’s net assets have risen more than ten-fold from US$49 billion (AED180 billion) in 1995 to US$509 billion (AED1870 billion) in mid-2013 and UAE non-oil nominal GDP rose from US$49 billion (AED180 billion) to US$229 billion (AED840 billion) in the same period. Furthermore, according to a recent study, the UAE banking sector directly employed over 34,400 professional staff as of mid-2013, more than doubling since 2000. The study pointed out that the sector enhances economic activity and leads to the creation of additional jobs in other sectors.