Chairman of UAE Banks Federation (UBF), H.E. AbdulAziz Al-Ghurair, holds first press conference after COVID-19 restrictions

Wide-ranging agenda included banking sector achievements during and post-COVID-19, UBF strategy to meet ‘Projects of the 50’ goals, and the second half of 2021 outlook for UAE banks

Chairman of UAE Banks Federation (UBF), H.E. AbdulAziz Al-Ghurair, today held a press conference – his first since the exit from the restrictions of COVID-19 pandemic – during which he addressed a number of topics related to the post-pandemic recovery and growth of the UAE banking sector.

Topics of discussion included the banking sector’s achievements during and post-COVID 19, progress made by UAE banks on the Emiratization process, collective efforts by UBF members to achieve the goals set out in the government’s “Projects of the 50” initiative, impact of Expo 2020 on the banking industry, and the expectations for UAE banking sector’s performance in the second half of 2021.

Also on the agenda were efforts made by UBF and Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) to tackle financial crime compliance, the effect of UAE’s new residency guidelines on the banking sector, as well as the latest updates on key UBF initiatives.

Commenting on the proactive efforts by CBUAE to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on retail and corporate customers, H.E. AbdulAziz Al-Ghurair said, “CBUAE’s timely and integrated measures to support the financial system helped shield the UAE economy from the pandemic’s impact and accelerated post-COVID recovery. In total, the UAE dedicated a support package reaching AED 400 Billion, of which the CBUAE gave banks total relief package that exceeded AED 250 Billion.  In particular, the AED 100 billion Zero Cost Facility benefited both individuals and businesses and facilitated liquidity management for banks through collateralised funding at zero cost. To date, the TESS loan deferral program made by CBUAE benefited hundreds of thousands of retail customers, tens of thousands of SMEs, and thousands of private sector companies.”

Reaffirming the banking sector’s commitment to Emiratisation and the “Projects of the 50” initiative, H.E. Al-Ghurair said, “UBF will take on an enhanced role in facilitating skill development and employment opportunities for UAE Nationals in line with the goals envisioned in ‘Projects of the 50’, which is a landmark initiative that sets out a roadmap for a new era of economic development. We believe in investing in Emirati population, who are the ones that will drive the next stage of our country’s growth and economic transformation. In the long term, our focus goes beyond just creating job opportunities for Emiratis and extends to providing them with the resources and training they need to become financial sector’s leaders of tomorrow, so they find themselves able and prepared to shape the future of UAE economy.”

During the press briefing, UBF Chairman observed that demand for loans had gone up in the lead-up to Expo2020 – which he identified as a key factor driving post-COVID recovery of UAE banking sector and the country’s economy more generally – and is expected to pick up more pace over the coming months. He expressed optimism that many companies visiting the UAE for Expo2020 may transfer part of their business activities to the UAE and start new investments here, resulting in new business for banks.

Commenting on the strong Q2 financial results of UAE banks, H.E. Al-Ghurair said that the positive results are an indication that the banking industry is in recovery mode, after having been in decline globally due to COVID-19. He added that he expects UAE banks to maintain their growth momentum in the second half of the year, driven by improvements in operating conditions, cost efficiency, and credit demand.

UBF Chairman also shared his views on UAE’s new visa guidelines, observing that “the decision to liberalize residency guidelines is a landmark step that will stimulate the UAE’s economy by attracting visitors and investment and lay the foundation for growth for the coming decades.”  He explained that the UAE is always striving to create a positive environment for investors, and as the human factor is a key part thereof, such visa guidelines were approved by the leadership of the UAE to promote such investment environment.

The press conference concluded with H.E. Al-Ghurair walking media representatives through current and upcoming UBF initiatives covering Fraud Prevention, Cybersecurity, Ethical Selling, Data Management and Protection, and more.

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