x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

NBAD aims to branch out

National Bank of Abu Dhabi sets out for new markets as domestic growth falters.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) is seeking to push into new markets in the Middle East and Asia by opening branches and acquiring banking licences.

It wants to open an Islamic bank in Malaysia and is pursuing licences to operate in Lebanon and Syria.

"We have a conventional licence. If the authorities allow us, we'd like to have … an Islamic licence," Michael Tomalin, the chief executive of NBAD, said on the sidelines of the Global Financial Markets Islamic Forum in Abu Dhabi.

After the recent political turmoil in Egypt, NBAD is also trying to increase its branch network there to 50 from 30 by 2014.

Mr Tomalin added the company's US business, which has operated in Washington DC since 1981 and recently moved to a new office, was also seeing increased business with American companies "that want to do business in our part of the world, and we're there to serve customers here who want to be in the Americas".

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Mr Tomalin also affirmed the bank's role as a catalyst for the development of Abu Dhabi.

"Whatever happens in the new Mena, the role of banks, both in banking and Islamic banking, is sure to be reinforced," he said. "I'm very confident that when the dust of this particular issue is settled, investors will return."

Raj Madha, a financial analyst at Rasmala Investment Bank, said regional expansion would help bolster NBAD's existing business as growth had been sluggish at home.

"Particularly in the environment of low domestic growth, you'd be expecting them to be looking for something more ambitious," Mr Madha said.

"None of the UAE banks have a pan-GCC franchise other than NBAD. It's clear that they've been the most aggressive in spreading their wings."

ghunter@thenational.ae