The Beirut-based lender BankMed has opened an office in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) as it expands in the region to drum up business from the Lebanese diaspora.
The bank, which also has operations in Turkey and Iraq, joins an increasing number of emerging market banks at the DIFC including Chinese and Indian financial institutions.
While BankMed has carved a niche funding small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) it will also offer other financial services such as asset management and taking deposits, said the chairman Mohammed Hariri.
The bank’s wholly owned brokerage subsidiary MedSecurities has also opened shop in the DIFC with BankMed.
“We are not here to compete with the big local or international banks,” said Mr Hariri. “We are a medium-sized bank. We believe that we have a certain niche, attracting a lot of the Lebanese diaspora all over the world to expand into the emirates, and try to have a special niche for our activities.
“We will be concentrating on lending to SMEs in a big way because this is our model in Turkey [and] Iraq. Due to our presence in Iraq, Dubai is a natural hub for us to connect through that and Turkey,” he said.
The UAE has been striving to bolster support for SMEs. Even though they represent almost 92 per cent of the total number of companies and provide more than 86 per cent of jobs in the private sector, they are the recipients of only about 4 per cent of total lending in the country.
BankMed’s office in the DIFC officially opened on February 9 with a staff of about 14, said Mr Hariri.
The lender entered Iraq two years ago and has offices in Baghdad, Erbil and Basra, while it has been in Turkey for the past 10 years.
Future acquisitions would probably be in Lebanon, where BankMed is among the top five biggest banks by assets, he said.
“I think most acquisitions will be in Lebanon because we have grown to a good size,” Mr Hariri said.
“Future growth will be through acquisitions, but opportunities are limited,” he added. “A fast- growing area for us is Turkey. We bought a bank in 2005 and today we are growing quite rapidly, so I believe that this will keep growing. Iraq is another area and we are hoping that Dubai will also be a growth area.”
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