RakBank facility at Dubai's Dragon Mart. The bank reported that it generated a profit of Dh224.8m, for the third quarter of 2017, up 106.7% year-on-year. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: When in Rome do as the Romans do. And when in Dragon Mart do as the Chinese do.

From Mandarin-enabled automated teller machines (ATMs) to English-speaking staff of Chinese origin, oriental seems to be the flavour of the year for the UAE’s top banks at what is arguably the world’s largest trading hub for Chinese products outside mainland China off Al Aweer Road.

“With an increasing number of Chinese individuals and businesspeople settling in the UAE over the past few years, RAKBANK recognised a need to facilitate communication to this valued segment to better cater to their banking requirements,” said Peter England, chief executive of RAKBANK.

“For starters, the bank expanded its team to include Mandarin-speaking staff in three main bank branches in Dubai catering to Chinese customers on a daily basis — Deira Souq, Al Ras and Dragon Mart,” he said.

Dragon Mart is witnessing a turf war between banking companies to reach out to expats from the world’s most populated country. A majority of them do daily business on two levels of this 150,000 square metre mall that houses close to 4,000 shops involved in wholesale and retail trading of Chinese products.


Almost every shopowner in the mall is Chinese as are the customers who live in the adjacent clusters of International City. Most of the staff employed by shops in the mall are Chinese and almost all of them live in the China Cluster of International City, Dubai’s version of Chinatown.

“As part of our customer-focused approach, we introduced ATM instructions in Mandarin when we opened our branch in Dragon Mart in January 2009. At the time, we were the only international bank to have a branch at the mall to service our Chinese speaking customers,” says Jaydeep Gupta, the head of consumer banking in the UAE for Standard Chartered Bank.

Liu Yong Sheng, who banks with RAK Bank, often uses the Emirates NBD ATM because both offer customers an option to operate ATMs in Mandarin, the most widely spoken dialect in mainland China.

“It’s convenient. All it matters for us is whether we are able to see the instructions and operate the ATM in a language we know,” says the fluent English speaker from the coastal province of Shandong in China’s north-east.

“We receive a lot of customers from China on a daily basis. Many of them are tourists, but a greater number of them live and work here in International City and they find it very comforting when they can deal with one of their own country persons.

“Language is a barrier for the majority and we help to remove it,” says Lisa Xiao from Hubei province in central China who has been working as a personal banking adviser at the Dragon Mart branch of a UAE bank.

Serving them better

“About 99 per cent of the mall is occupied by Chinese retailers and a significant community of Chinese individuals reside and work in this area. Given the profile of our clients at this location, the introduction of Mandarin Chinese specifically enables us to serve them better,” says Ahmed Al Marzouqi, General Manager of Retail Distribution at Emirates NBD, which introduced Mandarin on their ATM machines last year.

RAKBANK on the other hand introduced Chinese-enabled ATMs in May 2011 and the Mandarin option is now available across all the bank’s ATMs around the country. They say they are the first and only bank in the entire region to have Chinese-enabled ATMs.