Awards for Excellence: Middle East
Best regional bank: Citibank
Banks in the Middle East are having to confront the same forces of consolidation that have swept across the US and Europe. Individual countries in the region are too small a market for the largest and most dynamic Arab banks but these institutions lack the size and expertise to compete in the global market. The long-term future looks bleak for the many smaller banks that cannot find a niche for their services.
The result will be fewer, more regional Arab banks. Some bankers believe that in a generation there could be as few as four regional Gulf banks and a similar number of specialist financial institutions.
Competition for regional supremacy will be fierce. Saudi Arabia's banking system will probably be opened up to foreign competition when the kingdom joins the World Trade Organization in 2003. The Gulf Cooperation Council states (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman) will shortly implement their recent decision to allow banks to undertake cross-border operations.