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Mon 1 Jul 2019 01:43 PM

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Rakbank CEO 'optimistic' about UAE's SME sector despite challenges

Rakbank's exposure to the sector accounts for AED8.4bn of its AED34.6bn loan book

Rakbank CEO 'optimistic' about UAE's SME sector despite challenges
Rakbank CEO Peter England.

Rakbank is “optimistic” about the UAE’s SME sector and lending opportunities for small businesses, according to CEO Peter England.

In an interview with Arabian Business, England said that while the bank has taken a “more measured” approach to lending than it did several years ago, it has no intention of shying away from the SME sector.

“This is a niche we have created for ourselves, and one that that we will continue to support,” he said. “We are optimistic about the SME sector and have a strong lending appetite to small businesses in particular.”

England added that Rakbank believes the “worst is over” for SMEs.

Rakbank's overall exposure in the sector accounts for approximately AED 8.4 billion ($2.29 billion) of the bank’s AED 34.6 billion ($9.42 billion) loan book, up AED 500 million ($136.12 million) from last year. England added that the bank has set a target of matching that level in 2019.

“SME lending isn’t without challenges,” England said. “Small business owners – our primary customer group – today are more cautious than ever about borrowing, and this is reflected in the ongoing decline of non-performing SME loans.”

“We therefore see an opportunity in delivering a wider range of products and services, including direct advice and management support, to SME customer looking to maximise on funding opportunities,” he added.

As part of its work with SMEs, Rakbank has recently announced a number of partnerships designed to create further opportunities for businesses in this sector.

These include the launch of a standalone business banking mobile app for SMEs and a partnership with Sage which provides cloud-based accounting solutions for our customers.

Rakbank posted a 13.2 percent rise in full-year 2018 net profit to AED 917.5 million.

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