UAE, UAE, DUBAI - Finance
CEO, Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD)
Bernd van Linder joined CBD in January 2017. He built his career at ABN AMRO before moving to Saudi Hollandi Bank as GM for treasury and eventually becoming CEO of that bank in 2009. He has a wealth of experience in all aspects of banking and an excellent track record in leading strategic change processes. He holds a PhD in artificial intelligence from the University of Utrecht and an MBA in financial management from the University of Bradford.
In 2019, you mentioned CBD’s continuing innovative efforts in terms of digitalization. As the most innovative digital bank, how are you transforming yourself into a wholly digital bank?
In the digital age, customer experiences are benchmarked by those provided by large tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Banks have to strive to offer a similar experience, and, hence, the only relevant measurement of the success of digitization and innovation is the improvement in customer experience. All of our efforts have been focused on achieving such an improvement. This started in 2017 when we were the first bank in the Middle East to launch a digital-only bank. Other examples are our positive pay solution to eliminate payment fraud and e-invoicing solutions to enable businesses to exchange and manage straight through processing of invoices in an integrated electronic format. The inauguration of CBD Lab, a corporate workspace focused on building a culture of innovation, collaboration, and disruption, has also enabled us to provide next-generation banking solutions to our customers through strategic collaborations with fintech start-ups. This is further augmented by a strategic JV with PwC, through which we source and evaluate fintechs on a global scale, assess their suitability for implementation within CBD, and run pilots. Only through an outside-in view, a global perspective, and strategic partnerships is one able to stay ahead of the curve in times of rapid change.
Dubai is looking to position itself as the global Islamic economy capital, with Islamic finance playing a critical role. How is CBD capitalizing on this segment to drive growth and reach its forefront?
CBD has always been supporting the government initiatives to drive Dubai’s ambitions forward, in line with directives from our wise leadership. CBD offers innovative Islamic banking services to our corporate, commercial, and retail customers, through its CBD Al Islami brand managed by a team of professionals with extensive experience in sharia-compliant financial solutions. Like for all of our businesses, growth is driven by a relentless focus on customer needs and expectations. As long as we continue to exceed our customers’ expectations, CBD Al Islami will continue to expand.
In addition to Islamic and trade finance, what other areas of growth has CBD identified in the financial sector, and what challenges need to be overcome?
Overall economic growth over the coming years is forecasted to be positive, which will continue to boost the financial sector. This is further supported by Expo 2020, which will boost economic growth. On the back of these, I expect all segments, whether large corporations, SMEs, or retail, to grow. On a slightly more macro level, fintech will drive new business models and become an integral part of financial institutions’ technology and operational infrastructure. Customer intelligence will also be an important driver of revenue growth and profitability. Solutions based on machine learning and AI in general will fundamentally change the nature of banking, particularly for retail clients, where the era of the “segment of one” is about to commence.
What are your strategic priorities and vision for CBD heading into the coming years?
CBD has a strong client base, a strong capital and liquidity position, and a fantastic team. Having just celebrated its 50th anniversary, CBD is well positioned to continue its fantastic performance and continue to be the bank of choice for its customers for the next 50 years and beyond. As long as we continue to focus on exceeding our customers’ expectations, providing them the best experience possible, and putting them at the center of everything we do, CBD will continue to prosper.