Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 August 2020

ADGM looking to entice more digital banks

Regulator is accepting applications to establish digital banks in Abu Dhabi's financial centre

Mr Al Sayegh highlighted trade finance, cross-border corporate as well as infrastructure finance as key to regional long-term growth prospects. Courtesy Bloomberg
Mr Al Sayegh highlighted trade finance, cross-border corporate as well as infrastructure finance as key to regional long-term growth prospects. Courtesy Bloomberg

Abu Dhabi Global Market is in active discussions to licence more digital banks as the financial hub looks to host more online-only players, according to its executive director.

"We have just given our first licence to the Anglo-Gulf bank, the world's first stand-alone and fully digital bank. We believe that digital banks will add significant value to the SMEs sector … My team is currently actively in conversation with several others," Ahmed Al Sayegh told a Bloomberg capital markets conference in Abu Dhabi.

Anglo-Gulf Trade Bank, a joint venture between AGTB Holdings, a Rowland family-controlled company and Mubadala Investment Company, calls itself the first digital trade finance bank and aims to facilitate commerce between companies in the Middle East, UK and Asia through blockchain technology with a view to financing a trade finance gap estimated to be worth $1.5 trillion. AGTB is the house bank of the new Hub71 accelerator in ADGM, which will provide support to new technology firms, such as office space, visa support and housing support, as well as help from partners such as WeWork and Amazon.

Lenders in the Arabian Gulf, like their peers across the globe, are increasingly moving away from the conventional brick-and-mortar model of banking, investing heavily in digitalising their products and services. UAE banks are leading the charge across the Arab world in digital transformation with Mashreq Bank closing half of its traditional branch network and investing more into digital-only services. It plans to invest Dh500m over the next five years to further digitalise its operations.

In an interview with The National last month, ATGB's deputy chief executive Daniel Gould said the company was looking at opportunities to plug a massive trade finance gap. “What we realised is that technology is an enabler which will allow us fundamentally reimagine how a trade finance solution gets delivered," he said.

Mr Al Sayegh, who is also a UAE state minister, highlighted trade finance, cross-border corporate and infrastructure finance as key to regional long-term growth prospects.

In July, ADGM's regulator, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA), started accepting applications from global conventional lenders to establish digital banks or their branches in the financial free zone. It will also look into evaluating partnerships between technology companies and financial institutions seeking digital banking licences.

Updated: October 2, 2019 06:48 PM

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