Dubai: The UAE banking sector remained resilient in 2016 in the face of strong headwinds, according to the Board of Directors of the UAE Banks Federation (UBF), a professional representative body comprising 49 member banks operating in the UAE.

The UBF board, under the chairmanship of Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, held its first meeting of the year on March 7 to review key highlights of 2016 and outline priorities for 2017.

“Despite regional and global challenges, the UAE banking sector has been able to adapt and remain resilient to the headwinds faced in 2016. The drop in oil prices and the quickening pace of economic diversification in the UAE have put a sharper focus on the non-oil sector. As the nerve center of the economy, the banking and financial sector will have a pivotal role to play in ensuring that economic activity in the UAE maintains its momentum through 2017,” Al Ghurair said.

The board evaluated the progress of UBF small and medium enterprises (SMEs) initiative “Modus Operandi”, a new debt restructuring measures introduced last year to better enable SMEs to meet their debt obligations; implementation progress of the Mobile Wallet and the proposed creation of a unified framework for handling customer complaints.

The Board also reviewed initiatives that aim to further protect customers and banks against anti-money laundering, and enhance fraud prevention and cybersecurity in the banking landscape. The UBF board also commended the collaborative coordination with the Central Bank of the UAE on key industry issues, and reviewed the performance of the 18 specialised technical committees, tasked with overseeing key UBF programmes and initiatives. The Board also valued UBF’s contribution in promoting Emiratisation and SME empowerment, as well as addressing important banking sector issues.

“Banks must explore innovative ways in which to make their business models viable, especially given the rising regulatory challenges and compliance costs,” Al Ghurair said.