Dubai businessman Mohamed Alabbar 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 currently going through final approvals ahead of its launch, according to an announcement issued on Monday.
Alabbar is the founder of Emaar Properties — the Dubai developer behind The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa — and also teamed up with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) to launch the Noon online shopping platform in 2017. As part of his latest venture, 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 in a statement.
“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, especially as a result of restrictions as a result of the pandemic, which made it harder to get to a physical bank branch.
A survey by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) last October found that 70 percent of respondents said that 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.
The same BCG survey found that 53 percent said that they were using banking mobile apps more often as a result of the pandemic and half of those surveyed had started using digital banking for the first time.
“UAE’s banking customers’ have a strong appetite for digital banks, and we see more growth in the demand of digital products during the pandemic,” Mohammad Khan, partner at BCG, was quoted as saying.