Dubai: Best Bank for SMEs 2020
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Dubai: Best Bank for SMEs 2020

Emirates NBD

Emirates NBD is not simply a colossus in Dubai, it is also a power-player across the region.

Under the leadership of group chief executive Shayne Nelson, the Dubai-based lender reported net profit of Dh14.5 billion ($3.94 billion) in 2019, up 44% year on year, and continued that performance into the current year. The first quarter of 2020 was a tough time for most lenders, as the impact of the pandemic started to encroach on balance sheets, but Emirates NDB still reported a 3% year-on-year rise in net profit, to Dh2.1 billion.

Its big strategic move of last year was the purchase of Istanbul-based DenizBank, a privately owned lender with 708 branches in Turkey and offices in 44 other markets including Bahrain, serving 13 million consumers and companies. DenizBank is vital to Emirates NBD’s efforts to diversify, geographically and financially, beyond the UAE.

But every lender needs a stronghold, and for the foreseeable future, Dubai will remain its stomping ground. It is a leader in its home market, across Islamic banking, private banking and investment banking, with a global markets team that’s second to none. Total assets expanded 37% year on year in 2019, to Dh683 billion, enabling it to retain its A3 and A+ long-term ratings from Moody’s and Fitch respectively.

A Dh6.45 billion rights issue, 2.8 times oversubscribed and inked in November 2019, underlined the demand for its securities among regional and global investors alike. That sale in effect raised its foreign ownership to the 20% limit. It aims to further increase that limit to 40% once it obtains regulatory approval.

The bank is also ploughing Dh1 billion into digital innovation as it seeks to overhaul its entire IT infrastructure, boost its cyber-security and anti-fraud capabilities, and make it a far more analytics-focused lender.

Among the new digital innovations it launched in 2019 are a new instant digital account-opening mechanism on its mobile banking app and a ‘smart pass’ token that allows consumers to buy online using a simple SMS code. It also unveiled a new voice-operated banking system using Amazon’s virtual AI assistant Alexa, which uses natural language technology to recognize and authorize voice commands.

Following the success of Liv, a lifestyle bank aimed at millennials, Emirates NBD announced the launch of E20, a digital bank aimed at business customers. It will target startups, freelancers and gig economy workers, as well as fintechs and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Talking of which, Emirates NBD’s award for best bank for SMEs is just as well-earned. The bank offers three tiers of SME banking. It opened 22,000 new small business accounts in 2019, up from 20,000 the year before, and boasts a market share of 24% in SME lending.

Popular features include its online portal, a faster digital onboarding process, and a seven-year statement history for all business customers. The launch in 2019 of its On-The-Go trade finance hub, which gives customers the flexibility to manage all trade finance requirements in real time and with the benefit of just a few clicks, also proved popular.

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