The Bank of London and the Middle East (BLME), Britain’s largest standalone Islamic bank, plans to set up an office in Dubai to expand on it’s offerings in capital markets and wealth management.
The bank is experiencing 15 percent growth in assets this year, with the GCC move expected to attract regional Islamic banking business from countries such as Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
Speaking to Reuters, BMLE chief executive Humphrey Percy said; “Our Dubai office will help identify opportunities for club transactions, syndication and for our wealth management offering.” However, the BLME does not intend to seek a full branch license or footprint in other countries.
The BLME has developed a niche for itself in middle-market transactions, growing rapidly on the back of limited Gulf-based competitors and reduced activity from large British banking groups. By December 2012, the bank’s balance sheet had swelled to over USD 1.6 billion. It expects to continue its double-digit asset growth momentum in the coming years.
Established in 2006, the bank enjoys financial backing of Kuwaiti investors, including Boubyan Bank, which holds about 22 percent of BLME shares. In recent years, the BLME has diversified its portfolio to include property development, investment holdings and residential financing. The initial focus areas of the bank included healthcare, transportation and real estate. The BLME also manages about USD 100 million in assets in several Islamic funds.
Recent activity in the Islamic banking sector has surged because of the UAE government resolve to make Dubai the centre of the global Islamic economy. Their ambitions have been bolstered by social unrest in Bahrain, which have disrupted business operations and scared away foreign investors. For a long time, Bahrain had enjoyed the reputation of being a main Islamic finance hub in the Persian Gulf. The Islamic banking sector in Dubai has tapped this opportunity to attract major financial institutions, by offering Islamic finance products and services.