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UAE - Finance

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Faisal bin Sultan Al Qassimi

Chairman, United Arab Bank (UAB)

Bio

H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Faisal Bin Sultan Al Qassimi is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of United Arab Bank, elected in March 2024. He has been a member of the board since 2011, chaired the Board Credit Committee (BCC) since 2016, and was a member of the Board Corporate Governance & Remuneration Committee (GRC) since 2017. Sheikh Mohammed Al Qassimi has eminent experience for more than 30 years in many industries, including the financial & banking, private equity investment, capital market investments, real estate, hospitality, tourism, and retail. He also holds prominent positions and sits on the boards of several organizations. Educated at Webster University in Switzerland, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Accounting.

"The solid foundation H.H Sheikh Faisal bin Sultan has set and further developed over the years has provided us with a clear road map for the future."
TBY talks to H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Faisal bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairman of United Arab Bank (UAB), about strategy, product portfolio, and new technology.
Can you shed more light on the recent leadership transition and the bank’s strategic direction, innovation, and growth?

I would like to start by sharing my and the bank’s sincere gratitude to H.H. Sheikh Faisal bin Sultan bin Salem Al Qassimi for his vision and leadership as the former Chairman of the bank for the past five decades, and since 1975. The solid foundation H.H Sheikh Faisal bin Sultan has set and further developed over the years has provided us with a clear road map for the future. UAB’s long-term strategic direction is to position itself as the preferred and trusted bank for large and mid-sized corporates, and for families living in the UAE, by offering innovative products and delivering exceptional customer experience. Customer centricity remains at the heart of every step of the bank’s operations, and we aim to further enhance the use of technology to significantly improve customer experience and reduce costs, thereby generating superior returns to all our stakeholders. One step forward in this path is through the revamping the mobile banking app that will host a best-in-class customer onboarding experience and provide seamless transactional services. I must highlight that digitalization combined with a 24×7 support by our teams at our contact center and hyper-personalization of the bank’s products and services will distinguish UAB’s retail banking proposition among others in the market. We endeavor to remain agile and dynamic in setting, executing our short and medium-term strategies in line with the operating environment and emerging trends in the industry. Over the medium to long-term period, we aim to be amongst the top banks in our peer group on all financial metrics. While the bank is committed to improve brand visibility, across various ESG metrics through increased distribution footprint and adding value to its customers, we are also seeking to re-invigorate our retail banking with a focus on simplicity, convenience, and customer-centricity. Furthermore, we will significantly grow our Islamic banking propositions along with our already successful corporate banking offering. Looking closely at Islamic Banking, I must highlight that it continues to represent significant growth opportunities for UAB and the region, and we are committed to maximizing its potential through innovative products and strategic enhancements. We are focusing on enhancing the breadth and depth of our Islamic banking product proposition, offering Islamic products on both, assets as well as liabilities side, and in turn increase contribution of revenue from Islamic banking over the next five years. In addition, UAB will focus on its strategy to efficiently source low-cost and sticky funds, while optimizing the funding mix to support business growth forward. This will be achieved by strategically launching new aggressive campaigns to attract deposits, and by leveraging on our improved credit profile to raise cost-effective and stable medium-term borrowings.

What specific innovations in financial services and product portfolio expansion is the bank utilizing?

UAB is committed to maintaining its upward and targeted trajectory growth in the coming years, primarily due to its strategy, innovative financial products and services. The bank offers a range of products to meet the needs of it’s growing customer base and continually develop new portfolios to expand our footprint in the region. Some of the new products for corporate clients that are in pipeline include: a buyer-led supply chain finance that will enable UAB to grow its trade assets by financing the payables of large anchor buyers. There will also be a host-to-host channel for our corporate clients, facilitating direct connectivity between their ERP system with the bank’s system, thereby enhancing transaction turnaround time and establishing stronger business ties with the customer. The bank will also offer commercial cards to employees of corporate clients, facilitating their travel and entertainment expenditures, as well as potential supplier payments, through technology-backed card solutions covering both physical and virtual cards. UAB intends to strengthen its corporate product suite through this niche offering, in an endeavor to become one of the preferred banks of our corporate clients. Other new products in the pipeline include trade credit insurance-backed financing structures, remote check printing facility for corporate customers, and commercial escrow services, providing custodian services for the management of high-value transactions, funds, and securities.

What are the bank’s initiatives to continue to modernize its IT infrastructure in terms of cloud technologies and AI?

UAB has been actively pursuing a comprehensive digital transformation strategy to modernize its IT infrastructure in line with leading international practices. Our The set IT strategy aims to modernize the bank’s infrastructure, enhance operational efficiency, and deliver superior customer experiences through the strategic adoption of AI/machine learning/cloud technologies as we advance in our digital transformation journey. Some of our key plans include: cloud migration strategies to optimize performance, agility, scalability, security, and cost-effectiveness, aiming to modernize its IT infrastructure for enhanced resiliency and high availability; data management and governance to ensure the quality, security, integrity, and compliance of data across the bank; strengthening its cybersecurity and protecting customer privacy by safeguarding against evolving threats in the digital landscape; integrating AI and ML capabilities into IT infrastructure to automate processes, improve decision-making, and enhance customer service. These new technologies will facilitate predictive analytics for better customer experience and customer protection as well as positively impact our compliance, transaction monitoring and information security risks.

How do ESG principles guide the bank’s decision-making processes, community engagement, and support for the country’s growth ambitions?

UAB’s ESG principles are fully aligned with the objectives of COP28 and the UAE’s national vision. Our approach to ESG encompasses all facets of our operations, from investment and lending practices to risk management strategies, internal policies and governance practices. We believe in the importance of ESG in creating sustainable value, generating positive social impact, and reducing environmental risks. Through a thoughtful approach to sustainable finance, UAB aims to contribute to global sustainability goals, emphasizing risk management and governance.
The bank currently already provides green sustainable finance products like Green Home Loan and Green Auto Loan for its customers. We are also working towards launching green and sustainable finance products and services for our corporate clients as well. One of the key objectives for 2024 is to formalize our ESG strategy and framework, and eventually we will cover all our traditional products and services and integrate our ESG principles and risk framework across the same. Managing our operational (carbon) footprint, reducing, reusing, and recycling our resources and waste, and providing ESG-friendly choices to our customers in the form of green and sustainable finance products are the key elements of our environment pillar under our proposed sustainability framework. Furthermore, the bank’s ESG approach emphasizes risk management and governance, demonstrating a balanced commitment to sustainable and responsible banking. Through initiatives such as ESG risk frameworks, climate stress testing, the formation of the Sustainability Committee, and a focus on regulatory compliance, we are dedicated to navigating the complexities of ESG issues thoughtfully and effectively. As we continue to refine the bank’s ESG strategy, UAB remains focused on contributing positively to our communities and the environment, guided by a spirit of responsibility and a commitment to sustainable progress. We reaffirm UAB’s dedication to environmental stewardship and our commitment to align with the UAE government’s vision of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

What are your expectations for 2024 and the bank’s short-to-medium-term goals?

UAB has been delivering strong double-digit growth for the past two years and we expect another strong year in 2024 for the bank in terms of operational and financial performance.
I am cautiously optimistic about the positive operating environment and equally confident about the successful execution of our turnaround and growth strategy. In my capacity as Chairman, the board is confident in our management team and believes in our collective ability to outperform and deliver superior returns to our shareholders and other stakeholders. We expect to see positive growth projected for UAE GDP, led by strong non-oil sector expansion as well as robust credit demand. We believe interest rates may remain “higher for longer”; however, banks should still be able to maintain adequate liquidity, profitability and a strong capital position. When looking at the banking industry, major emerging trends include the accelerated pace of digitization, with the adoption of AI in banking continuing to increase and enabling banks to provide products and services more comprehensively and deliver an enhanced customer experience. Also, banks need to ensure their operating models remain lean and flexible in order to adapt to the dynamic and challenging environment. As we all have seen as the UAE emerges as a major fintech hub, we are proud to be part of this ecosystem and look forward to contributing to its development in line with supportive regulations.

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