Ahmed Abdelaal, Group CEO of Mashreq Bank

Mashreq Bank has developed a strong digital identity as the paradigm shift towards digital in the banking sector firms up. How are you leading the industry beyond past the buzz-word of digitalization?

Technology is rapidly evolving at a breakneck speed. Banks need to adapt, and they need to do so quickly. Mashreq’s story has been defined by a readiness to adapt – and we have forged a unique role as leaders of change, thus being able to provide the best in class experience and solutions to our customers. As a challenger bank, we invest in digital and e-commerce solution as an enabler of personal and professional fulfilment – beyond financial services. We now exist across multiple ecosystems, investing in financial and non-financial e-commerce solutions that form what we now are - and what we set out to achieve.

With technology fast evolving, customers are living in a connected world, how do you envision the future of the banking sector in the next decade?

From our perspective, digital success depends on delivering the customer experience rather than on a specific product or proposition. Our business and its supporting digital enablers have been built around the delivery of superior customer experience through existing growth platforms and continued investment in digitization and transformation programs. As far as the future of banking is concerned, I believe we are moving into a period that will see the blurring of industry ecosystems and an increased focus on innovation and AI driven personalization of all customers journeys on both retail and wholesale banking fronts.

Mashreq's recent historic brand evolution comes at a very crucial moment. How is the new identity a strategic shift in terms of identity and customer proposition?

Mashreq has a legacy of over 55 years and a proud history of delivering innovative and pioneering products that meet customers’ ever-changing needs. Everything we have done for decades now has revolved around our customers. For this very reason, we wanted a new brand identity that reflects the distinctive character of this new pursuit in a way that excites our clients and our people alike. Our core focus is to challenge the status quo, inspire our customers, and build a banking-as-a-service ecosystem fit for the digital economy – a framework that supports and encourages every customer to Rise Every Day to inspire and realize their dreams.

As the first non-Ghurair family member to lead Mashreq Bank, you are leading a transformation of the Dubai-based lender. What are your plans to build deeper and more personalized connections with customers?

As the country’s oldest local bank with a global footprint, Mashreq has deep roots as well as a proud legacy in the UAE. This legacy is a testament to the bank’s forward-looking strategy that was initiated by the former long serving CEO, now Chairman of the board, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, as well as the valued support from the board of directors, regulators, our strategic partners, and most of all our customers across the globe. My vision when I became CEO in 2019 was to build on this legacy and continue progressing Mashreq towards becoming the region’s most progressive bank, with the best client experience, enabling innovative possibilities for our clients, colleagues and communities.

For me, as the Group CEO of Mashreq, customer centricity has been the top priority, and everyone knows that I am very passionate about this topic. In my view, the industry is expected to witness a progressive shift towards the business of selling experiences rather than product and services. This is something we have embraced and we are gearing our delivery channels with the ultimate objective of delivering unmatched experiences across all client journeys.

From a personal point of view, how do you face challenges and rise to occasion every day to lead a global bank such as Mashreq?

The role of the CEO is no different from the role that other stakeholders play in the success of any organisation and also in terms of the challenges they face on daily basis. In this regard, I am immensely privileged for the tremendous support I get from the Chairman, our Board of Directors, the Senior Management team and our hugely talented workforce who help me tackle those daily challenges. I greatly value their expertise, leadership and compassion. Their efforts and hard work have helped me to Rise Every Day to greater heights particularly in the face of the challenges we have confronted over the last couple of years.


This UAE National Day, in keeping with its new branding theme, Mashreq profiles three exceptional UAE-based women as they share their inspiring life stories, explaining how they rise every day to overcome physical challenges and accomplish outstanding feats of determination and courage

Muna Al Harbi Image Credit:


Emirati mother, Muna Al Harbi is a tenacious multiple sclerosis (MS) warrior, who has not let her illness beat her. The inspirational mother of three went through a range of emotions when initially diagnosed with the autoimmune disease, but soon went on to transform her life and the lives of other sufferers.

Muna had previously suffered from different symptoms, which included numbness in her limbs while pregnant and the inability to walk after the birth of her third child. However, she didn’t get her MS diagnosis until she met her fifth doctor in 2016.

The shock diagnosis led to a struggle with her emotions, which included denial, grief and depression. Having gone through these initial stages, Muna slowly accepted her diagnosis and channelled her emotions positively. In the face of adversity, Muna decided to fight back. After all, Muna says, “If you don’t beat it, it will beat you.” Muna believes you have no option, but to keep moving forward.

Today, Muna is a life and transformational coach. She holds a position in the government whilst bringing up her beloved children.

Muna also established a national MS society in the UAE and has become a member of the strategic advisory committee to help people with MS and to raise awareness of the condition.

She feels it is necessary to motivate and help MS sufferers and takes calls, selflessly supporting them where she can and is now a spokesperson for those with the disease.

Sometimes Muna may need a break during her busy day, but her passion for helping others and raising awareness for MS is unstoppable. She is optimistic about the condition, and her outlook on life with MS is commendable.

Muna is a shining example of what happens when you refuse to give in, and the inspirational mother says, “I accepted MS and made it my friend.”

— By Helga Jensen-Forde | Special to GN Focus

Sameena Javeed Khan Image Credit:


Indian expatriate Sameena Javeed Khan was dealt a blow four years ago. Khan was a busy mother tending to her three-year-old daughter — but she was struggling with a number of health issues.

She was also overweight and struggled with it since a child, her teenage years and through her 20s.

“In the middle of 2018, I sensed something was not right with me. I was getting breathless too often, there were massive bouts of fatigue and I was unable to do even basic household chores.”

Unable to figure out what exactly was the problem, she met a specialist who recommended a surgery for thyroid removal. “My thyroid always had multiple benign tumours from a young age,” she says.

Getting the news

When she underwent a series of tests, they revealed she had papillary carcinoma (thyroid cancer) — second stage. The news hit her hard. “On my way back home from the hospital, all I was thinking about was how I had neglected my health. I didn’t even have time to sit and worry about my cancer. I was too busy thinking what next, and how I could come out of it.”

Fastforward to now, Khan has transformed her life. Rising from being overweight, she has turned fit and is a body builder.

“The year 2021 was an eventful year. I had my very first bodybuilding show in December. This was a whole new experience for me because it unfolded a lot of new things in terms of bodybuilding and fitness. I discovered how far I could push myself in terms of physical ability, mental perseverance and overall wellbeing.”

Khan harboured a desire to  raise the image of south Asian women on an international bodybuilding platform.

“And so I prepped for the Amateur Olympia competition held in October 2022 in Mumbai. It was an international event and I came sixth.”

She said she is grateful that she is able to share her knowledge and support women warriors like herself battling cancer. “It gives me immense strength and happiness to be able to do this.”

— By Anjana Kumar, Senior Reporter, Gulf News

Hamda Mohammad Yousef Mohammad Al Hammadi Image Credit:

VICTORY OVER TYPE 1 DIABETES: Hamda Mohammad Yousef Mohammad Al Hammadi

Twenty year-old Hamda Mohammad Yousef Mohammad Al Hammadi, was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at the young age of 13 years, and in the last seven years she has not only waged a spirited battle to gain control over her condition, but is well on the way to becoming  the “white warrior” for her country by enrolling  into the first year of medical college at Sharjah University.

Hamda’s story

Type I diabetes is a genetic chronic condition that is caused by little or no insulin production by the pancreas and usually occurs in minors who then have to take lifelong insulin injections to keep blood sugar under control.

Recounting her struggle of coping with Type I diabetes while speaking to GN Focus, Hamda talks about how she felt bewildered as a teenager coping with it. “At 13, unable to understand the full impact of my condition, I was at a loss, as to how to comply with the strict instructions of my endocrinologist. As a result, I would often land at the hospital emergency with high sugar or high magnesium levels.”

However, Al Hammadi did not let the diagnosis dampen her enthusiasm for life. Eventually after moving from the initial paediatric endocrinologist to another doctor in Ajman, Al Hammadi slowly understood the full import of her condition and took charge of her health.

“I keep up to my physical fitness schedule as I know it plays an important part in better sugar metabolism. In the last two years, I have understood the importance of nutrition and calorie control and I am mindful of the calories I consumer per meal. Earlier, it was difficult for me to have an insulin pump and I had to have three to four insulin injections throughout the day. Not anymore.”

“My insulin pump which is calibrated to a pre-set dosage of insulin to be administered at mealtimes, automatically releases the dosage in my blood stream. With this, I can manage my Type I diabetes pretty well,” said the young first year medical student who is not sure as yet of the specialisation she might want to undertake by the time she completes her degree in 2027.

It’s about management

Hamda, who has come a long way in diabetes management and is a youth icon for many others battling the condition, shared a succinct message for others in her predicament.

“There are so many youngsters diagnosed with Type I diabetes. I want to tell each one of them that you can achieve or fulfil any dream while battling this condition. The key is management. Under a doctor’s guidance, with the right insulin dose and loads of self-discipline and determination it is possible to vanquish Type I diabetes. Do not let this disease steal your dreams. Learn to fight and live with it, and go ahead with your dreams,” says Hamda.

— By Suchitra Bajpai Chaudhary | Special to GN Focus