Sean Gilchrist, CEO of Nomo Bank
According to Gilchrist, Middle East customers who are looking to buy a home in the UK through the Nomo app. They no longer need to travel to the UK to secure financing. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Banking sure seems to be getting easy. Picture this: you are sitting here in Dubai and wants to rustle some mortgage funds for a property in London.

Get onto the Nomo Bank app and – if you have all the right credentials – you get the approval. All without having to be anywhere near London.

The UK-headquartered Nomo Bank wants to catch a lot of client attention, especially those based in the Gulf. This week it announced a partnership with Abu Dhabi’s ADCB and its Sharia digital entity Al Hilal Bank to offer digital banking services to UAE Nationals and residents.

That means customers in the UAE can open UK-based multi-currency current and savings accounts, or tap UK home financing, from their smartphones using ADCB-Nomo or Al Hilal-Nomo banking apps. If ever more evidence is needed that banking is getting borderless, this is it.

In an interview, Sean Gilchrist, CEO of Nomo Bank (which is the trading name of Bank of London & the Middle East) has his say on how banking is shaping, with or without borders.

Is Nomo’s focus exclusively on Gulf/Middle East clients wanting to raise funds for UK investments?

Our research shows that while customers from the region have long had the desire to bank and invest internationally, high fees and changing regulatory requirements have made it difficult for them. Through digital technology, we have simplified this and today with Nomo, you can open a UK bank account from home.

GCC businesses alone have invested over 15.7 billion pounds in the UK. Whether they are looking to buy a home or for a Sharia-compliant investment product, we have solutions that could meet the international needs of these customers.

Within the last month, we’ve launched our property finance product and multi-currency services. For customers with savings needs, our fixed-term deposits give customers access to savings in GB pounds and US dollars at competitive profit rates.

In parallel, we are focused on our expansion plans across the region, with entry into the UAE right around the corner. In our new markets, we aim to partner with local banks.

Nomo bank
After securing its base in its UK home market, Nomo Bank will be heading into select overseas markets. This is where local alliances such as the one with ADCB come in real handy.

Wouldn’t you be better to go for high networth client needs irrespective of geography? Rather than this hyper-focus on the Gulf?

These are customer segments that our research and knowledge of the region show are under-served and don’t have easy access to international banking services. Simply put, through the use of technology we have created an ‘international bank in your pocket’ for our customers.

These are individuals who have international banking needs but lack a single place with low fees and a digital-first experience to manage their finances. Imagine being able to bank internationally from wherever you are, you can exchange money at competitive rates, hold a multi-currency account, benefit from term deposits that are competitive and much more - all through one app on your phone.

Middle East customers who are looking to buy a home in the UK whether as a rental property or for their personal use are able to through the Nomo app. They no longer need to travel to the UK to secure financing and we are Sharia- compliant.

There’s been some real concerns expressed that the UK might lose out on fund flows given the depth of the worries over that economy. Your thoughts?

We are a UK bank and are backed by an industry leader, Boubyan Bank, giving us a lot of credibility in the market. We have offices in London and Dubai and work with a range of partners across the markets we operate in, including local banks and mortgage brokers.

Nomo is licenced and regulated in the UK. All our customer deposits up to 85,000 pounds are covered by the UK’s Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

As an Islamic bank, we also don’t put our customers’ money at risk.

Right now, despite global uncertainty, the UK has maintained its reputation as a global financial market which is stable and well regulated. The current market has created numerous opportunities such as rising term deposit rates, and taking the US dollar/GB pound exchange rate into consideration, this creates better value for money property prices in the UK.

We’ve also seen travel pick-up and for those on holiday or studying in the UK, Nomo debit cards which support six currencies are very convenient whilst travelling abroad.

Don’t you think your potential clientele would already have long-standing equations with their banks in the home markets? What’s the competitive pitch you can offer to counter that?

Nomo doesn’t compete with local banks in our customers’ home markets as we are fully-focused on international banking. In fact, local banks in the GCC act as our partners introducing Nomo’s services to their customers.

These partnerships also mean Nomo’s services are supported by a trusted local financial institution. This is on top of Nomo being a UK regulated bank.

Our customers seek international Islamic banking services which in many cases, their local banks are unable to provide. Access to banking services are limited internationally and this restricts the ability of these customers to find a bank in-line with their personal principles.

Being the world’s first digital Sharia compliant international bank, we are able to fill these gaps by making international banking accessible.