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Banking Highlights In 2013: Mashreq

Banking Highlights In 2013: Mashreq

Digitalisation and regulation took centre stage in GCC banking in 2013, according to Farhad Irani, EVP and head of retail banking at Mashreq.

2013 has seen many changes and developments in the GCC banking sector, with both financial institutions and consumer habits evolving like never before.

Among the major developments, we heard about the UAE Government unveiling its Smart City project, which will enable the public to use their mobile devices for interactions with government offices. The UAE is one of the most advanced countries in the region and in its tech-savvy society we can see that convenience is slowly replacing old habits, and now individuals prefer electronic means to cheques.

This year has also seen central banks across the GCC become more proactive and assertive with regards to banking security and customer protection. The UAE Central Bank issued new mortgage regulation, which places various limits on the amount that homebuyers may borrow in relation to the value of a property. The new mortgage cap could help reduce market volatility and ultimately loan losses and prevent another boom-and-bust cycle like was witnessed in the UAE property markets over the past decade. The Qatar Central Bank has also taken steps to bring the multiple regulators in the country (QFC, QFMA) under the QCB umbrella to ensure consistency and streamlining of policies and regulations.

The GCC market is increasingly profitable yet dynamic which naturally calls for timely and prudent regulatory measures. While Qatar has launched its Credit Bureau, the UAE Credit Bureau is in the process of incorporation with the banks that have participated in the first phase and we are now awaiting its launch.

The UAE is one of the countries that is leading digital banking initiatives in the region and is seen as reaching global standards quickly. But the GCC also has a solid foundation to move towards adopting digital banking as a way of improving customer service in the region.

Another highlight was the implementation of the Direct Debit System both in the UAE and Qatar, which will enable customers to make regular, automatic payments from their bank accounts towards mortgage, loan or credit card payments. This is in line with establishing a more convenient retail banking system that will create more stable and progressive economic development.

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