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Reimagining the UAE's next chapter

Filed on August 31, 2020
Abdulfattah Sharaf, HSBC Group General Manager and CEO UAE and International

A country built on an ambitious vision of the future is a natural home for the strategic and entrepreneurial policymaking that will be a hallmark of the economies that rebound most effectively from Covid-19 - and that puts the UAE in a unique position for international leadership, from banking and financial services, to trade and technological innovation, says Abdulfattah Sharaf, HSBC Group General Manager and CEO UAE and International.

There is broad consensus that the world has been changed by the coronavirus pandemic. Few nations in the world are as adept at change as the UAE. A geographic location at the centre of the world has meant ideas, goods and cultures have always flowed into and out of the region - and the signs are already clear as to the focus of the new strategic and progressive industries that will drive the trajectory of change in the UAE in the years ahead.

We are optimistic that path charted in the UAE will afford consistent and sustainable prosperity, through a focus on new industries and innovation, and we look forward to supporting that - as we have done for more than 70 years since setting up the first bank in the territory that eventually became the UAE. Of course, this will not be without challenge, but we believe that a post-Covid economy will deliver new avenues of growth, particularly in the realms of sustainability, digital economies and the re-imagination of supply chains. There is already a clear focus on technological innovation, such as agri-tech, urban-tech and urban mobility.

Easing the burden
The UAE government has been decisive, inclusive and proactive throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. We have been proud to play our part in the economic stimulus and recovery programmes, and we have been steadfast in our commitment to helping shape a response that has been tailored to the needs of our customers.

Our personal and commercial banking teams have granted payment holidays on loans, credit cards and mortgages. We've also ensured customers are maximising the investments we have made in digital banking channels and products to always keep them connected to their finances - vital through lockdowns and social distancing measures.  

Providing this digital lifeline has been crucial to supply chains. Customers have rerouted their business to HSBC, using our global reach to manage the risk of unforeseen disruption to payments.
 In the first quarter of the year, we processed US$15.8 billion of trade in the region, with notable surges in the food and healthcare sectors. We responded to the increase in volumes by ramping up transaction times: 75 per cent of healthcare transactions and 83 per cent of food sector transactions are processed in 24 hours.

Growing locally, known globally
At HSBC, it has been a tremendous privilege to work with talented local people. Around our leadership table in the UAE, we have many Emiratis who have been with the bank since their graduation, which makes me very proud. We maintain a steady flow of local graduates every year that are internationally minded, who get rotational opportunities in areas such as innovation, global markets and cash management, trade, finance, and relationship management.

When the pandemic was in full effect, we wanted to make sure that we connected with young Emiratis often and with relevant topics. Having worked on numerous digital events and strategic initiatives together over the last few months, our partnership with the Federal Youth Authority has become stronger than ever.

Strength in unity
The strength in unity shown by the people of the UAE in these most testing of times has been an inspiration for us at HSBC. The importance of this unity cannot be understated - as the nation's founding father, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan, once said: "Unity is the way to strength, honour and power. Division only leads to weakness. There is no place in today's world for weak entities. These are the lessons of history throughout the ages."

HSBC has been part of the fabric of the UAE's society from its founding and we believe it is both an opportunity and a responsibility to continue playing a central role.

 The Central Bank of the UAE, as a regulator, is supportive through its transparency and by providing proximity and accessibility to stakeholders. At HSBC, we truly benefit from the partnership model that the UAE has managed to cultivate between the public and private sector for communities to thrive.

With Expo 2020 Dubai still to come, we're on the doorstep of one of the UAE's greatest global moments. The UAE will showcase the best that the world has to offer and highlight how the future will be reimagined. We, at HSBC, are already in dialogue with customers and colleagues to activate our global network in support of this important work.

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