The year 2010 is expected to be a watershed year for UAE banks. While most banks in the country, and indeed across the region, undertook extraordinary levels of provisioning in 2009, owing to an extraordinary global and regional economic environment, experts expect 2010 to be the year of recovery.
Emirates Business spoke with the heads of some of the leading banks in the UAE to understand the challenges facing the country's banking sector, and asked them to outline their resolutions for their banks in 2010 and beyond.
"Bankers will be more cautious and more defensive and banks are likely to grow slowly in 2010, forming a solid foundation for growth later in the decade," said Michael Tomalin, Group CEO, National Bank of Abu Dhabi.
"The local and regional financial services sector, in line with global trends, is now entering a period of increased stability, as are the growing economies of the Gulf and the Middle East," said Abdulla Al Hamli, CEO, Dubai Islamic Bank.
Douglas Beckett, Head of Retail Banking Group, Mashreq, added: "We must ensure that we remain agile and confident enough to take full advantage whenever opportunities arise."
While the pace of growth may remain slow, the panel of bankers thinks it will stay positive although lack of liquidity and managing credit quality emerged as the primary concerns. "These challenges are rather different from those that we have faced in the UAE in the past, where competition, innovation, and the demand for talent, have been top priorities," said Tomalin.
Even as Q4 results are yet to be revealed, UAE banks are expected to have raked in bigger revenues last year – up from $18.76 billion (Dh69bn) in 2008 to $19.96bn in 2009, a growth of 6.4 per cent, and are likely to grow another 10 per cent this year to $22.03bn, said a report by Kuwait Financial Centre.
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