National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD), the UAE's second-biggest lender by assets, has launched a five-year strategy to capture two of the country's most important demographics: Emirati entrepreneurs and small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs).
The bank this week signed a memorandum of understanding with the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise and Development by which it will process loan applications and offer other support for budding entrepreneurs seeking interest-free loans from the fund to launch their start-ups or add capital to build their existing businesses.
NBAD's focus on SMEs was kicked off in February, when it opened its first business banking centre in Abu Dhabi Industrial City. The bank opened its second business banking centre in Al Ain last month.
SMEs are the backbone of the UAE's economy, accounting for 46 per cent of GDP and about 90 per cent of all businesses in the country, according to NBAD.
"Our major focus is to support the Government of Abu Dhabi and the UAE's 2030 vision in supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs," says Haitham al Refaie, the head of the business banking group at NBAD.
"This will help to reduce the unemployment rate in the UAE and open the doors for innovative new ideas and creativity.
"This is our core strategy for the next five years."
NBAD will open a total of 14 dedicated business banking centres throughout the UAE this year. Four will be launched in the capital, one in Al Ain, one in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi emirate, four in Dubai, as well as one each in Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.
The centres offer SMEs a range of services and products, including export letters of credit, specialist advice for limited companies, a business credit card and an online service that enables firms to apply for credit facilities of up to Dh2.5 million.
"NBAD is fully aware that SMEs are the UAE's engine of growth and we also understand the challenges faced by this very important sector," Mr al Refaie says.
NBAD's online credit facility, which offers in-principle approval within seven days of applying, is open to SMEs that have been operating for at least two years in the UAE. SMEs are required to support their applications with six months of bank statements and two years of audited financial statements, as well as other documents about the business.
"Enabling SMEs to invest in their business contributes to a healthy market," Mr al Refaie says. "Abu Dhabi's ambitious development plan envisions a special role for SMEs in the Emirate's progress [and] NBAD's commitment to support Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 continues to advance the objectives and goals of this blueprint, such as SMEs."
For more information, go to www.nbad.com.