DUBAI: The UAE is set to be home to the world’s first fully Islamic Shariah-compliant digital bank, it was announced on Wednesday.
Set up by Zurich Capital Funds Group and branded as RIZQ / BARAKA, the new lender will provide all banking services according to Islamic law.
It will operate all digital banking services through mobile phones and computers, and its app can be downloaded via Apple Store, Google Play (Android stores), and many communication sites and social media networks.
RIZQ / BARAKA is launched from the UAE but aims to target customers in the Middle East and North Africa.
Long-term, the lender aims to scale up operations worldwide via strategic partnerships with banks and financial institutions in India, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the UK, Australia, Brazil and Mauritania.
Dr. Fahed Al-Merhebi, chairman of Zurich Capital Funds Group, said the bank is the latest in its digital ambitions, having already launched a Shariah-compliant digital crypto exchange platform called the SUSTAIN EXCHANGE, and a range of sports digital currencies that were listed on the exchange.
Earlier this month, Dubai businessman Mohamed Alabbar announced that he is to lead a new digital bank set to be launched soon in the UAE.
Zand is being billed as “the world’s first combined digital corporate and retail bank,” and is going through final approvals ahead of its launch.
Alabbar, founder of Emaar Properties — the Dubai developer behind The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa — teamed up with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to launch the Noon online shopping platform in 2017. He will take on the role of chairman of Zand.
“The UAE combines progressive regulations with commercial, financial, and technology hubs. This provides the perfect environment for a world-leading digital bank that can launch in the UAE and scale beyond,” Alabbar said.
“As the first fully independent digital bank in the country, with a full UAE banking license, Zand will provide innovative, effective financial solutions that help simplify businesses and lives, addressing the needs of both retail and corporate customers.”
Online banking has become increasingly popular in the UAE. In a survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) last October, 70 percent of respondents said they are actively searching for a new bank, and 87 percent said they would be willing to open an account with a branchless digital-only lender.