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Sun 20 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Banking on a brand new start

Each week Arabian Business turns the spotlight on a leading company.

Rings a bell... but what do they do?

Funny you should mention that. The ‘Mashreq' moniker is the result of the rebranding of one of the UAE's most venerable institutions. Until last week, they were known by the slightly more self-explanatory title of ‘Mashreqbank'.

I know them! They're a bank, aren't they?

Good work, detective. Mashreq is one of the leading banks in the UAE and 40 years old, with total assets of over US$15.5bn, making it the largest private bank in the UAE. It is the second-oldest commercial bank in the UAE, having originally been established as Bank of Oman in 1967 in Dubai.

So hang on a minute...

Yes - Bank of Oman changed to Mashreqbank, and it's now Mashreq.

I think I've got it. Why all the changes?

Well, the bank itself has gone through a lot of changes since its inception, and the rebranding follows a rigorous three-year programme to redefine the Mashreq brand. This included tracing market and customer needs through in-depth market research, listening to employee feedback, and strategically mapping the new brand direction with a series of overall business goals and objectives.

A ‘new brand direction'?

The findings led to setting up new business segments for high net-worth customers, small and medium enterprises, and an Islamic finance company, Badr Al-Islami.

Plus a whole load of new stationary, I suppose?

Well, yes. As part of changing the corporate image, the graphic design of all the bank's forms, website and information material will change as well, just as the internal and external appearance of branches and representative offices will be transformed.

Did they really need to shake things up?

Recent financial results would suggest that it was flying high anyway. In April, Mashreqbank posted a 30% increase in Q1 2007 profits to US$121.2m, compared with US$93m earned in Q1 2006. Net interest income was 39% higher at US$90.3m, and net commission income was up 61% to US$32.9m. Not to be left behind, loans and advances reached US$8.1bn, an increase of 8%.

So why go through all this bother, then?

I'll leave that to Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO of Mashreq. "We are changing while we are at the height of our performance, to make sure we maintain our market leadership," he says.

"We are opening the way to a new level of modern banking in an increasingly competitive market environment. Our focus is on meeting and exceeding our customer needs, ensuring that we deliver financial reward, convenience and ultimately peace of mind in this fast evolving sector."

That's cleared that up, then. So where now for Mashreq?

Well, a recent worldwide survey revealed that customer service is a critical driver of profitability and satisfaction, with more than 75% of consumers saying they would give more business to a company based on a great contact centre experience. Mashreq is already consulting customer interaction specialists Genesys in a bid to beat the rest of the competition. Have a nice day!

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