Middle East’s best digital bank 2021: Mashreq Bank
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Middle East’s best digital bank 2021: Mashreq Bank

No regional lender comes close to competing with Mashreq Bank for the best digital bank award. Under group chief executive Ahmed Abdelaal and head of corporate and investment banking Joel Van Dusen, the Dubai-based lender has become not just a powerhouse in digital but a leader too. It continues to invest heavily in blockchain. Its Trade Tracker platform allows corporates to track all transactions in real time and to view them all in a single window. TradeFursaa sucks in data from the bank’s business lines, then uses AI and big data to identify opportunities for traders and exporters.

In the spring of 2021 the team behind Mashreq’s NeoBiz, the first digital banking business in the UAE that supports smaller enterprises, joined forces with SRTI, a research centre in Sharjah, to support innovative young firms. The bank is not done yet with digital – in fact it says it has only just started. Van Dusen wants every transaction on his side of the fence to be carried out digitally.

The next big step, the bank says, is a new digital platform for corporates currently in development. Mashreq wants it to be a true game changer, perhaps one that could accelerate it into the digital banking elite. The premise is simple enough. It’s a supply-chain finance platform that will let suppliers upload invoices and buyers settle them, but in reality it is so much more. Van Dusen sees it as a “new value-add platform that will spur mid-market and SME growth” region wide and it is scheduled to go live in the first half of 2022.

Ahmed Abdelaal_400x225.jpg
Ahmed Abdelaal

More merchants use Mashreq’s point-of-sale services than any other regional bank – it reckons it has a 40% market share. It is the go-to financial partner for local and global firms, from Deliveroo to Dubai e-commerce platform Noon and apparel company Zara. Noon is the classic target for the team running its new digital platform, given that it has 5,000 suppliers.

The bank has spent the past 18 months hiring selectively and with purpose at the executive level. Tarek El Nahas was appointed head of international banking in January 2020, after 25 years at Citi, with Van Dusen arriving two months later. But perhaps the key hire in this context is Ellis Wang, a Hong Kong native and former senior director at Alibaba, who joined last year as Mashreq Bank’s head of technology, transformation and information.

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