RAKBank has seen a significant improvement in its loan loss provisions for 2021 with the lowest level seen in the last six years. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Rapid recovery of the UAE economy supported by increased consumer spending is expected to drive loan growth and profitability of banks this year, RAKBank CEO Raheel Ahmed told Gulf News in an interview.

“With pent-up demand over the last two years, we do see growth in consumer loans. Similarly, with the positive growth in the economy we are seeing a renewed demand for financing in the small and medium enterprises (SME) and corporate sectors too. However, competition remains intense and margins will continue to remain under pressure,” said Ahmed.

He expects margin squeeze will gradually ease with higher lending rates and appropriate business mix.

“During the pandemic lower margin businesses such as corporate lending grew at a faster rate while higher margin products that were more impacted by the pandemic grew at a slower pace. Going forward we expect this trend to normalise as we seek growth across all our key business lines,” he said.


In the recent years, RAKBank had been focusing on diversifying its loan book, while foraying into products that bring in a healthy mix of incomes from interest and non-interest streams.

Over the past five years the bank has built a strong portfolio of corporate assets while maintaining growth in both SME and personal banking portfolios.

“We will continue to focus on diversifying our assets while maintaining a healthy mix of personal, SME and corporate banking loan books,” said Ahmed.

The bank has witnessed some significant gains in building strong non-interest income streams in the past few years. The increase in its non-interest income in the past year is mainly due to the rise in net fees and commission income. The bank is actively looking to increase its core fee income be it through new customer segments or new revenue streams.

RAKBank has seen a significant improvement in its loan loss provisions for 2021 with the lowest level seen in the last six years, indicating a strong rebound in the economy and the success of the bank’s business diversification strategy.

“We truly believe that the worst is behind us, and with the economy slowly but surely picking up, we don’t see any material adversity in our loss provisions,” said Ahmed.

Digital is future

The lender wants to make its digitisation strategy to be more oriented towards helping customers in decision making.

“I am keen for RAKBank to further accelerate digitisation by getting more and more embedded within the customer’s decision making process. We want to think much beyond traditional banking and help our customers plan, manage and grow their money in a way that it works best for them,” said Ahmed.

Going forward the bank’s digitisation strategy will be focused on harnessing the power of data and advanced analytics to empower its customers in making the right financial decisions.

“This is where RAKBank is going to invest to win and set it apart from its peers. By doing so, we will be able to create relevant and hyper-personalised offerings and customer experiences,” he said.

While digitisation comes with significant costs, he believes it is the way forward in harnessing the benefits of faster business growth and economies of scale.

A CEO for next phase of growth

Image Credit: Supplied

Raheel Ahmed was appointed RAKBank’s CEO in January 2022 to develop and execute the bank’s strategy for its next phase of growth and increase profitability while achieving excellence in customer engagement by leveraging data and technology.

A seasoned banker and transformational leader, he comes with over 30 years of banking experience across Asia, Middle East, Africa, and Europe. He thrives on developing transformational strategies with a focus on building a high performance and customer-centric culture.

Raheel joined RAKBank from Barclays UK where he was member of the executive committee and the chief product and analytics officer, responsible for the strategy and commercial performance of the personal banking products.