Bank of Palestine in first overseas expansion with DIFC office opening

Bank of Palestine, the country’s biggest lender, has opened a representative office in Dubai, its first expansion abroad as it seeks to bank the Palestinian diaspora in the UAE.

The lender is following in the footsteps of other regional banks opening up shop in the Dubai International Financial Centre to target expatriates.

“This is our most significant milestone since the bank’s establishment in 1960,” said Hashim Shawa, the bank’s chairman and general manager.

“Our new office in the UAE will promote our banking services and serve as an economic bridge that connects 250,000 Palestinians working in the wider Gulf area.”

The bank may have its work cut out as it is entering at a time when lenders in the UAE are coming under increased stress from the oil price fallout.

The competition for retail customers, which gives banks fat margins, is particularly fierce and lenders are keeping borrowing rates low to compete, despite the decline in deposits.

Bank of Palestine did not identify which particular aspect of banking it was planning to focus on.

Even though the banking industry in the UAE is extremely competitive, a number of banks from emerging markets in the region and beyond have set up operations in the DIFC, the region’s de facto financial centre, over the past two years.

The Beirut-headquartered Bank Med opened an office in the DIFC in March last year.

“The DIFC is committed to offering our clients the opportunity of enhancing connectivity with the wider Middle East, Africa and South Asia region as part of our 2004 growth strategy,” said Essa Kazim, the governor of the DIFC.

“We are confident that the bank will benefit from the centre’s wide and diverse network of global banking and financial institutions as it expands its international business interests.”

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