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Image Credit: Ruya bank

Dubai: A new bank is all set to go operational in the UAE – but ‘ruya bank’ plans to do things slightly different from what legacy banks and digital-only banks are into.

While its digital platform and app will play a major role in getting the initial wave of clients and their attention, ruya intends to be a ‘digital first bank’, according to the CEO Christoph Koster.

The digital presence will be immediately backed up by community centers, which is what the bank branches will be called. And as it suggests, these locations will focus on highly personalised interactions between bank and clients.

So, welcome then to the world of hybrid banking.

Christoph Koster

“We offer everything that you would expect from a digital-only bank, such as opening an account only with the UAE Pass or Emirates ID – and in under 3 minutes,” said Koster. “Anyone can bank 24x7 via our app, and you get support through the in-app chat and all day-to-day transactions are online.

“But the way we see it, the community centers are where we get clients or those who want to be clients wanting more customised financing solutions for themselves. That’s the space where we want to be, even with a digital first approach.

"The fact that we have no minimum balance or minimum salary requirement ensures we are open to everyone in the community."

UAE banks and customers sign up for digital

A handful of digital-only banks are already carving up a space in the wider UAE banking sector, with Wio being one of the first movers. There’s also Al Maryah and other are starting to gain steam in their own right. On the client side,

We are well-capitalized and far exceed the regulatory requirements for what a license as a specialized bank in the UAE requires.

- Christoph Koster of ruya

As for the traditional banks, they and a sizeable portion of their client base have already migrated to digital ways. While retaining their physical presence.

This is where ruya – or Ruya Community Islamic Bank – wants to make its mark. The bank is headquartered in Ajman, and with its first location being in Marsa Ajman, a waterfront shopping and leisure destination in the emirate.

The bank, with a capital base of over Dh300 million, have ‘no limitations from the UAE regulator to open more locations and we are exploring more community centers in more parts of the UAE’, the CEO added.

ruya’s promoters are leading ‘holding companies’ based in the UAE, and ‘they provide a ‘strong foundation to launch operations’, said Koster. “We are well-capitalized for what a license as a specialized bank in the UAE requires,” he added.

Individuals or SMEs?

The neo-banks in the UAE have principally focused on the SME space, with the promise of faster response times to their requirements. Whether that’s on extending new credit terms or other bespoke needs.

The ruya focus will be much more broad-based, according to Koster. “We plan to offer the services to the entire community, whether family businesses or the community at large. Of course. Most UAE residents and citizens will have existing bank accounts, and we realise that fully well. You will not find anyone with one, or some digital wallet or prepaid cards.

“What we are aiming to do is offer existing banking customers in the UAE alternatives to explore ethical Islamic banking services. Or among those who are turning adults and do not have bank accounts yet.

"These are all categories of clients where ruya can find appeal.”

In its digital-first ways...