The Business Year

Dr. Adnan Chilwan

UAE, DUBAI - Finance

Performance Benchmark

CEO, Group CEO of Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB)


As Group CEO of Dubai Islamic Bank, the largest Islamic bank in the UAE, Dr. Adnan Chilwan is regarded across the financial sector as one of the most prolific and innovative leaders in the industry. Dr. Chilwan has been instrumental in the complete turnaround of the institution into what is undoubtedly regarded as the fastest-growing bank in the region. One of the most awarded professionals in the banking sector, Dr. Chilwan has focused his efforts around one single aspiration—to make Islamic finance the norm.

TBY talks to Dr. Adnan Chilwan, Group CEO of Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB), on the bank's transformation into a regional powerhouse, Dubai's support for the development of Islamic banking, and its ambitious growth plans.

How do you assess the development of DIB in recent years?

In the last four years, DIB has transformed into a regional powerhouse in the world of finance. Our successful growth strategy has led to significant enhancement of all key metrics, particularly those around profitability and returns leading to the bank joining the “billion-dollar profit club” for the first time. While growth and profitability make me proud, what truly hits the mark is the fact that the bank had its best performance in times that were genuinely challenging for all. The real success lies in having changed the market perception about our institution. Today, the market views the bank not just as a performance benchmark for Islamic finance, but also for the entire banking sector.

How can Dubai further strengthen its position as the global capital of Islamic finance?

Dubai’s commitment to Islamic finance is irrefutable. It was the Emirate that first introduced the concept by establishing the world’s first fully fledged commercial Islamic bank, and ever since, it has continued to support the sector’s development into what is today, a flourishing industry. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be headquartered in Dubai. The government focus on the development of Islamic economy as a whole has been a massive factor in enabling us to break the age-old myth that Islamic finance is a niche offering with limited scope. The sector’s growth has far outpaced its counterpart, and the last decade has clearly shown that the segment cannot only compete head to head with conventional players, but can, in fact, surpass them in many aspects. Additionally, the Dubai government’s unwavering commitment to this industry is fully aligned with its aspiration to become the global capital for Islamic economy.

What is the significance of fintech to the Islamic finance industry?

The challenges in the new digital world are the same for Islamic finance and its conventional counterpart. With changing family needs, disappearing cultural barriers, and enhanced lifestyle, it is inevitable that financial services will have to follow suit and evolve accordingly. Hence, I expect to see more opportunities and many new avenues, though one has to be nimble, decisive, and ready to act. The world is moving fast, and technological advancements will only see an acceleration going forward. The choice is, thus, to evolve or dissolve. With the global fintech industry expected to triple in the coming five years to over USD150 billion, the financial sector also continues to evolve. The UAE leads fintech evolution in the MENA region, with nearly 30% of start-ups based here. We, as financial institutions, are at a crossroads; we need these start-ups just as much as they need us, so it is about complementing rather than competing. It is about embracing rather than excluding, and it is about using the latest development in the industry to our advantage.

What is your outlook for the future of Islamic finance both in Dubai and globally?

Islamic finance is fast becoming a norm in the financial world. Statistics from across the world show extremely positive trends and high levels of liquidity amongst GCC investors, and other predominantly Muslim markets continue to push the industry northbound. Perhaps, the real driver is the changing attitudes of the sector being limited to Muslims. Islamic finance and banking are now globally accepted by customers and investors, who make decisions analyzing both types of institutions in the same manner. Dubai started the concept with DIB, and the last four decades have seen the Emirate truly take the lead. The ambition of becoming the global capital of Islamic economy will be another major boost for the Islamic finance industry.

What is your outlook for the coming year?

2018 is the culminating year of our 10-year strategic master plan. The last five years of that plan have been focused on an unprecedented growth agenda. We were ambitious from the start, and perhaps, the market was slightly skeptical about us in the earlier years. However, seeing our performance, this skepticism is rapidly dissipating and replaced by even higher expectations. Our financial guidance for the year continues to be well above the existing market trends, and we expect our market share to continue to grow this year.



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