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Emirates NBD: Nelson’s milestone moment

If timing is everything, then Emirates NBD should be nothing. The merger that created the bank brought together two wholly dissimilar institutions, just as the global financial crisis brought Dubai to the brink of default. It has suffered ever since. Until now. Have Emirates NBD – and Dubai – really turned the corner?

Shayne Nelson Large

Shayne Nelson, Group CEO at Emirates NBD

There is a museum on the 15th floor of Emirates NBD’s head office in Dubai. Renowned for its extraordinary, priceless collection of pearls, once the lifeblood of Dubai’s economy and the main reason for the city’s very existence, the museum also chronicles the financial history of the city and its currencies through the years.

But the most important artefact is wholly unassuming: two creased and slightly smudged pages of A4 lined paper with handwritten Arabic in blue ink, signed in the presence of Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in his Zabeel Palace in March 2007, after lunch and a spot of tea.

It’s the document that created Emirates NBD, the merger of National Bank of Dubai and Emirates Bank that Sheikh Mohammed hoped would create a muscular national leader. “His vision was for Dubai to grow, and to be financed it needed a bigger bank with more capital,” says Ibrahim Sowaidan, head of group corporate affairs, and a proud guide to the museum.

But the deal suffered from dismally unfortunate timing.

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