Mashreq Bank knows who it is, what it wants, and how to deliver the world-class financial services its customers demand. From the day of its birth in 1967 as the Bank of Oman, the Dubai full-service commercial lender has been resolutely outward-looking. As the UAE’s largest privately owned bank by assets and revenues, it is a powerful presence in its home market.
Its unrivalled regional reach also includes a presence in Bahrain and Kuwait, as well as Egypt, India, the US, Britain and Hong Kong; representative offices in Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal give it added reach in South Asia. The bank recently applied for a licence to open a rep office in Shanghai, in order to extend its knowledge of, and presence in, China’s powerhouse economy.
“In terms of the share of overall revenue we generate outside the UAE, no bank can beat us. We are the region’s most international lender,” says Jan Willem Sudmann, Mashreq Bank’s group head of international banking. The bank has spent years building a network of correspondent relationships with 500 financial institutions in 70 countries, helping it serve key markets in Europe, North America, Asia and Africa.
This global reach is the source of its innate stability; foundations built quietly but assiduously, making it an invaluable financial partner. “It’s about working to our strengths, and getting deep into the markets we want to focus on,” says Sudmann. Mashreq Bank’s expertise lies in doing the tricky stuff well, with a minimum of fuss. Its roster of services spans the corporate banking spectrum, from loans and deposits, to M&A and structured finance, to investment banking and trade finance.
That dovetails perfectly with Dubai’s status as a leading global trade, finance and business hub. “It is a city based on transaction banking and trade finance, and its key advantage is that it sits at the heart of the great trade corridors that link Asia, Europe and Africa,” says Sudmann. Mashreq Bank in turn acts as a fulcrum – benefiting from years of investing in itself and helping its clients, from Dubai International Airport and Jebel Ali Port, to develop infrastructure that is honed to operational and commercial perfection and designed to capture and channel as much physical trade as possible.
“When, say, an India-based company doing business in East Africa needs a letter of credit or wants to reduce counterparty risk, we can do that,” says Sudmann. “We have a very unique proposition. Our clients, from SMEs through to multinationals, know we aren’t just their ‘bank for the UAE’, but their financial partner in the GCC region and beyond.”
Mashreq Bank is careful to adapt and hone its strategy to suit each market. Its presence in Egypt is deep and long-standing, with a history that stretches back 30 years. Its strategy in India, a very competitive market, has shifted gears, to focus more on a selected set of services, notably transaction banking and trade finance.
Many mainland-based corporates now see Dubai as a regional ‘home from home’, locating their Middle East and North Africa headquarters in the UAE city. “Being here puts them in the centre of everything,” says Sudmann, pointing to the city’s stability, infrastructure and excellent transport links. Emirates now flies direct to 79 African cities, from Abidjan to Zanzibar.
Then there is China. As China redraws the global trade map, corporates and lenders scramble to adapt, and Mashreq Bank is no exception. The People’s Republic is now the UAE’s number-one commercial partner, so two-way trade is increasingly priced in Renminbi. “Our task is to offer local clients access to Rmb-currency accounts, and to yuan-denominated letters of credit,” says Sudmann. “We are putting the right infrastructure in place, and our cooperation with financial institutions in China gives us access to mainland clearing systems. We can also help local investors and clients buy Chinese government-issued bonds.”
Mashreq Bank is also investing heavily in technology as it seeks to reinforce its competitive advantage in corporate banking. The first bank in the UAE to install ATM machines, issue debit and credit cards, and roll out consumer loans, it recently introduced a payments tracker that enables corporates to trace every transaction as it flows through global clearing systems. “Treasurers love it,” notes Sudmann. It’s another example of how Mashreq Bank is working with strategy, intelligence and coherence to stay ahead of the game.