Rehan Ali, Head – Business Banking, NBF Image Credit: Supplied

We have been living in an interesting time. Since Covid-19 took hold of the world earlier this year, we have been doing our best to absorb the shock, adjust and plough forward. And that certainly includes thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in this country.

Thankfully, due the proactive response of the UAE government, the impact of the pandemic has been minimized and we are emerging out of the crisis wiser, stronger, and better Thankfully, due the proactive response of the UAE government, the impact of the pandemic has been minimised and we are emerging out of the crisis wiser, stronger and better. His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, stated that the top priority of the UAE is to be the fastest-recovering economy in the world and the most stable and diversified one in the long term.

At NBF, we know there are challenges facing the SME sector as the country’s economy gets back on its feet and we are committed to helping them survive and go on to thrive.

At the forefront

Over the years, NBF has been at the forefront of supporting SMEs in the UAE and has been one of their key dependable lenders. Our resilience and commitment as a financial partner have earned us an award-winning track record where we have been recognised by the likes of Banker Middle East for being the Best Commercial Bank UAE and for Best Trade Finance Offerings.

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In 2020, when the pandemic hit we did several things to help our customers get through the unprecedented circumstances. We deferred liability payments, as well as interest and reduced interest rates to help the SMEs  to reduce their overall financial expenses.

The bank also extended incremental facilities to clients who needed to kick-start their business and offered financial support by paying their employees’ salaries, utility bills, as well as rent through short-term bridge facilities.

New business climate

However, the playing field has changed and now embracing technology and the digital world is essential if an SME is going to weather the new business climate. They need to adapt to the changing digital landscape in order to survive and continue operations effectively.

Therefore, as we look to the future, NBF is showing even more commitment to SMEs by using innovative strategies to empower these businesses. Even during these testing times, NBF remain committed to support SMEs by extending facilities to new customers on a selective basis.

A great example is the NBF Connect platform, which has  been created alongside fellow SMEs. Covid-19 has accelerated the transition to the digital world and our objective has been to digitise a very vital sector – not only contributing to its continuity but allowing it to develop even  more.

We are the first bank to launch this type of forward-thinking platform in the UAE. The aim was to alleviate some of the challenges that currently exist by creating a community where SMEs can share their knowledge and expertise, connect with one another, and engage in industry-related conversations, as well as receive the latest market insights and learning about e-commerce and marketplace management, among many other banking and business services.

Commitment to SMEs

It is during difficult times that solutions such as NBF Connect truly display a bank’s commitment to its customers and we believe this platform will bring the SME community together.

SMEs are essential to the UAE’s GDP and contribute as much as 60 per cent - and that is estimated to go up to 70 per cent by 2021, as per by the UAE Ministry of Economy.

The very fact that the UAE Cabinet has recently appointed a minister who will be solely dedicated to SMEs is indicative of their indispensable value to the country’s economic engine.

As such, NBF aspires to continue playing an important role in extending our financial and business support to nurture the growth of this industry.

The writer is the Head of Business Banking, NBF