As the UAE continues to evolve, Standard Chartered is at the forefront of innovative financial services.
By investing heavily in the digital space, not only does Standard Chartered future-proof investments, but continue to explore new and exciting opportunities, as Julian Wynter, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered UAE, explains.
What macro-economic fundamentals make the UAE such a good market for Standard Chartered?
For us, the UAE continues to evolve and extend its business and consumer offering which in turn creates new opportunities for Standard Chartered to keep up with innovative financial services and solutions to meet our clients’ needs.
Undoubtedly the economy is a bit softer, but the response from the UAE has been to maintain its diversification agenda, which has already been in place in Dubai for some time.
There are many ongoing infrastructure projects, world class ports, airports, and the free trade zones, all of which is complemented by rapid population growth.
The UAE government continues to be engaged in improving the business environment which is supporting foreign direct investment inflows into the country.
How is Standard Chartered navigating the digital transition?
Standard Chartered is investing heavily in the digital space with the ambition to build the digital retail bank of the future.
To support this ambition, in 2015 the Bank announced an investment of $3 billion in technology and systems over the coming three years, that includes investments in its global shared service centres in a concerted effort to transform its digital capabilities.
In the UAE, we have rolled out cutting-edge fingerprint technology on our mobile banking service and enhanced the online banking user interface so that clients can securely and seamlessly access their bank account balances, cards and investments.
We have also enhanced our fund transfer limits to suit the needs of our clients. The bank will also introduce voice biometric technology for phone banking services for clients by the end of this month. We’re bringing the latest digital technologies to all our markets so that we can offer easy, convenient and secure banking to our clients.
Do you think Islamic finance is being fully tapped as a market here or is it the case that further potential does not really exist?
There are lots of opportunities here not least of which is the government's determination to make Dubai the global Islamic finance centre. Analysts say the recent slowdown in growth of Islamic finance, reflects more challenging economic conditions across a number of core Islamic markets — particularly in the GCC countries due to lower oil prices.
However, in many core markets that we operate in such as the UAE, the Islamic banking sector continues to outpace growth of conventional banking, supported by proactive regulations and strong retail client demand due to the inclusive nature of Islamic banking products.
Sukuk issuance is also very successful here, with the Nasdaq Dubai overtaking London and Malaysia as the world’s leading centre for international Sukuk listings and we expect this to continue, with all of our data suggesting that Islamic banking is growing in demand.
There are around 50 banks operating across the UAE catering for a population of 10 million. Do you think the market is reaching saturation point?
Recent developments in the banking sector have signalled the increasing need for further consolidation to stay efficient and profitable. Consolidation can be a progressive move in the current environment bringing with it advantages suited to the interests of the country’s entire banking sector.
From Standard Chartered’s perspective, we continue to see interest for a range of financing products in the market. In particular, Debt Capital Markets is an area where we see good business momentum in the region.
The drop in oil price, resulting in low supply of capital, has given us the opportunity to tap our international network and attract investors from outside the emirates. Another area of growth is wealth management where there is a demand for tailored investment and insurance products.
Our products are structured with the client in mind which is one of the reasons why despite the market softening with oil prices dropping, our volumes have picked up.