Move to convert MEB into Islamic bank likely to get support

Middle East Bank

A move to convert the Middle East Bank (MEB) to an Islamic bank looks likely to win the support of the board of the Emirates Bank Group (EBG).

Speaking to Gulf News recently, Anis Al Jallaf, the managing director and chief executive of EBG, said: “The intelligent move will be to use the MEB licence to start an Islamic bank, because its limited customer base can be very well absorbed by Emirates Bank International (EBI), a conventional bank from the same group.”

He acknowledged that Islamic finance is gaining momentum in the market and an Islamic bank makes better business sense for the EBG group, which has a full-fledged retail banking operations called meBank, and investment banking arm, Emirates Financial Services.

Dubai Islamic Bank is the only Islamic bank in Dubai, whereas Abu Dhabi and Sharjah also have one Islamic bank each – Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (Adib) and National Bank of Sharjah.

However, several banks in the UAE sell Sharia-compliant (Islamic) products despite the fact there are differing views on whether this enjoys business ethics.

Anis believes that going all out to become an Islamic bank, will have more impact than selling Islamic products through a designated desk. Moreover, Islamic finance is growing at a rate of more than 20 per cent a year in this region.

The Emirates Bank Group is understood to be working on a future strategy for the entities in the group. Sources close to the bank said two leading consultancies have been entrusted with finding out what improvements can be made.

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