Local banks become attractive alternatives to offshoring funds.
Thanks primarily to petroleum and natural gas, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are home to some of the world’s wealthiest countries and people. Although the energy sector suffered a hard blow during the Covid-19 pandemic, wealth continued to accumulate. As a result, the number of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) in the region increased by 6.8% while their fortunes grew 10.7%, according to data from international consultancy Capgemini.
Historically, Middle Eastern HNWIs have tended to keep their money offshore. However, over the last few years, local banks have built strong wealth management offerings and adapted to customers’ changing behavior, to better compete internationally.
One thing is for sure: digital is non-negotiable. Customers expect their wealth managers to be highly tech-enabled, and they expect most services to be accessible at any time from their phones.
Customers also increasingly look for purpose while investing their money. According to EY’s 2021 Global Wealth Research Report, 76% of Middle Eastern clients have sustainability goals, and 48% say they factor climate change and carbon emissions in their investments. Be it with green finance, social impact investing or Islamic finance, MENA banks are rising to the challenge.
BEST PRIVATE BANK IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The biggest MENA bank, Qatar National Bank (QNB) is a champion at home in Qatar with more than a 30% market share in private banking, and it has made a name for itself abroad with a presence in 31 countries globally. With the end of Qatar’s diplomatic isolation, and prospects for natural gas production more than doubling in the next five years, QNB’s future looks bright.
The bank offers a complete portfolio of onshore and offshore private banking services through QNB’s Geneva, London and Paris offices. Notwithstanding its size, the bank wants to remain a “personal and discrete” partner for long-term relationships with elite customers. Dedicated teams are available 24/7 to manage accounts and provide investment advice.
From mobile banking and contactless transactions to artificial intelligence (AI), the bank has a track record of investments and partnerships with fintechs and telecommunication companies that place it among the financial institutions leading the region’s digital transformation.
BEST PRIVATE BANK FOR SUSTAINABLE INVESTING
Dubai’s largest lender has grown to become one of the region’s most trusted wealth managers. This year, the Private Banking division recorded 11% year-over-year profit growth and turned the pandemic into an opportunity to tighten relationships with existing clients and on-board new ones.
As a leader in finance related to environmental, social and governance issues, Emirates NBD puts a particular focus on climate change, which is a crucial matter for a region where it rains only about 23 days a year on average. The bank welcomes new clients by making a contribution toward water conservation on their behalf. In September, Emirates NBD was the first bank in the UAE to sign the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment, thereby joining a global network of more than 4,500 investors who have already surpassed $120 trillion in commitments to build a more sustainable financial system.
While serving the elites, Emirates NBD wants to remain accessible. In 2020, the bank launched new Dubai-based multiasset funds with a $100 entry ticket. Emirates NBD also strengthened its regional footprint with two new branches in Saudi Arabia.
MOST INNOVATIVE PRIVATE BANK
Market leader at home in Kuwait and one of the biggest banks in the region, the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK) stood out this year for its commitment to innovation in mobile banking, digital payments, data analytics and AI. Thanks to early tech investments and adoption, NBK could offer its clients a full range of digital banking offerings throughout lockdown periods and continuing in the present. NBK’s dedicated team of private bankers achieved a 13% growth in assets under management and a 4% increase in client base during 2020.
Aside from new technologies, NBK also bet on its internal organization to boost performance. Under the leadership of the bank’s new head of Group Wealth Management Faisal Abdul-Latif Al-Hamad—appointed in April—NBK will bring its Private Banking division closer to its investment banking arm, NBK Capital. Together, they will strengthen the group’s wealth management platform not only for HNWIs, but also for corporate and institutional clients. The bank also plans to leverage technology and its reputation as a trusted financial partner to build up its footprint in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UK and Switzerland.