Emirates Islamic Bank has experienced phenomenal growth since launching in 2004. Diana Milne asks the bank’s general manager for retail banking, Faisal Aqil, the secret to its success.

Emirates Islamic Bank has enjoyed rapid growth since launching in 2004, thanks to the growing popularity of Shariah compliant financial products.

And, as its general manager for retail banking Faisal Aqil reveals, the bank is set for further expansion this year as regional and global demand for Islamic finance rockets.

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How successful has Emirates Islamic Bank been since its launch?

At the time when Emirates Islamic Bank was first launched its assets were worth around US$490m.

In the first quarter of this year they were worth around US$6.26 billion.

Now, after three years in operation, we have moved from being a small bank in terms of size, assets and liability to being a medium sized bank.

We are now one of fastest growing banks in the country in terms of profitability, assets and liability.

This success has really exceeded our expectations.

When we first prepared our business case the idea was for the bank to make a profit from year three.

But we managed to be in profit from year one. We now plan to establish a total of 40 branches.

What factors do you think are behind the bank’s success story?

Innovation has been the key to our success. We have come up with some very innovative products especially in retail banking.

Recently our biggest hit was the Skywards credit card where we give customers one Skywards mile per dirham spent.

We were the first Islamic bank to come up with the air miles concept.

We were also one of the first banks to introduce Islamic credit cards and these products have also been a great success.

As a bank we also focus a great deal on technology that can improve our customer services and we have a strong staff base, which we work hard to provide with training and development.

Islamic finance has experienced phenomenal growth across the world. What do you think is the reason for the popularity of Shariah compliant finance?

People like the idea of dealing with ethical based financing where there is lots of transparency and no hidden charges. Islamic banks don’t finance weapons, liquor or gambling for instance.

People like the competitiveness in terms of service and pricing.

Islamic finance also deals differently with customers that make delayed payments.

Interestingly many of our customers are actually non-Muslims.

50% of our mortgage finance business clients are non Muslims.

How big is the home finance side of Emirates Islamic Bank’s business compared to those of other banks in the region?

We are not a major player. We can’t compete with finance houses like Amlak and Tamweel.

But we are one of the most competitive in terms of pricing.

And we are very selective in terms of our developers.

 

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