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Vince Cook Chief Executive Officer at National Bank of Fujairah, talks about various developments in Fujairah

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Published: Fri 24 Feb 2023, 11:13 AM

Last updated: Fri 24 Feb 2023, 4:02 PM

What are the most promising prospective projects in the pipeline benefiting Fujairah’s economy?

As the world’s second largest bunkering hub, Fujairah is a key transit point for crude oil and petroleum products. This has led to significant oil-related infrastructure developments, including the development of a number of mid-stream projects related to oil storage and the linking of the ADNOC Murban crude terminal to the Port of Fujairah. This link will allow Murban crude to be both stored at the port’s terminals and exported from its berths. In addition, ADNOC is building the world’s largest underground oil storage facility in Fujairah, which will add the capacity to store a further 42 million barrels. There is also the development of an LNG terminal to support the growing demand for natural gas, which is being designed to be world’s lowest carbon intensity LNG production facility.

The marine sector of Fujairah has also witnessed major progress. The Fujairah Government is currently engaged in phase one of upgrading the Port of Dibba, which is expected to be commissioned during Q1 2023, transforming it into a multi-use commercial port by building two berths 650-metres long and 18-metres deep, and installing loading cranes with a capacity of 4,000 tonnes per hour to facilitate the efficient export of aggregate and related materials.

Fujairah was also recently selected to be the new operation centre by a multi-national manufacturer focused on complex wiring systems for the automotive industry, Kromberg and Shubert. It has invested Dh300 million in its plant, which will have 3,500 workers with an annual manufacturing capacity of 50 million pieces of high-quality automotive wire and cables. The Etihad Rail project, which will connect all seven emirates of the UAE to the five neighbouring countries, will also provide new opportunities for Fujairah by facilitating the transportation of heavy goods and passengers, with the first passenger station being built in Fujairah. A significant milestone is evidenced with the ongoing progress of the Al Bithnah Bridge in Fujairah, which will play a pivotal role in enhancing the transportation services available in the emirate. Fujairah is also growing as a tourism destination. A number of significant hotel openings have occurred in recent months and the UAE Government recently announced The Qidfa Region Development Project, which aims to attract 100,000 tourists annually by increasing the region’s tourism potential.

What are the key areas of focus for the bank going forward?

We remain a bank that is focused on delivering real value and support to our customers, developing new products and services to help them meet the increasing demands of our competitive environment.

We regularly look at new partnerships to extend our digital banking solutions, and have introduced new platforms to optimise the banking experience for customers. In addition, our exclusive NBF Technology Academy provides local students with progressive career opportunities in IT and innovation, helping them achieve digital, technical and scientific excellence, while also bringing new digital capabilities into the bank. Improving cybersecurity across our operations and protecting customers from fraud and other online threats also remains a key theme. Most recently, in this space we introduced CVVkey, an innovative digital solution to online card fraud that can be used across all credit and debit cards issued by the bank. In parallel, sustainability remains at the heart of our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda, and we are taking deliberate action both externally and internally to reduce our impact on the planet, and empowering individuals and communities across the UAE to do the same. With COP28 taking place in the UAE later this year, we actively support the UAE Energy Strategy 2050 to transform the national economy to include more green initiatives, and our ESG agenda aligns with the sustainability pillars of the UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment.

For our customers, we offer innovative, greener products and services such as green personal loans and automotive loans for owners of fuel-efficient, eco-friendly cars. Meanwhile, we continue to invest in green initiatives across the business to mitigate our environment impact. These include the installation of solar water heaters across our branches and solar panels at our offices, as well as solar-powered signage, replacing standard lighting with sensor-activated LED lights, and introducing recycling centres, electric car parking, and eco-friendly stationery made from wheat straw. At the same time, we are orienting our lending activity increasingly towards supporting the green initiatives of our customers.

We also remain committed to supporting the SME ecosystem in the UAE and have adopted a multi-disciplinary approach with a comprehensive portfolio of solutions and services that allow SMEs to focus on unlocking growth opportunities. This has enabled us to emerge as the long-standing business partner for SMEs in the UAE, with this segment contributing close to 50 per cent of the bank’s profits. Our innovative strategies include our forward-thinking digital platform NBF Connect, a bespoke online knowledge-sharing community portal where SMEs can network with each other, market their services and access a suite of exclusive banking and business offerings from our growth partners including Etisalat and Visa.

The maritime and shipping industry is clearly a key element of the economy. How is NBF involved in supporting this sector and how do you think it might develop further in the future?

NBF has a long experience of working with the maritime and shipping industry and we have a team dedicated to meeting the specific needs of this sector. With a significant portfolio of financed vessels and an on-going role in the expansion plans of UAE ports, we understand the unique banking requirements of companies — from facility operators to trading firms — and are focused on providing tailored solutions to customers.

Our view on the sector is that there are significant opportunities to grow, particularly in light of newer venues stemming from clean energy and sustainability measures. We have seen this with the new EEXI and CII regulations, which aim to drive the reduction in carbon intensity and take effect from 2023. There is a certain degree of consolidation activity that the market is witnessing and this could open up new and interesting merger and acquisition opportunities.

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