UAE’s neobank Zand secures backing from Aditya Birla & Franklin Templeton

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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Digital Banking
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Zand, the UAE’s first digital bank, has revealed that it has won support from investors including Aditya Birla Group and Franklin Templeton as it prepares for an “imminent launch” in the country.

The list of backers also includes Al Hail Holding, Al Sayyah and Sons Investments, Global Development Group and Mr. Yusuff Ali, Chairman of Lulu Group, Zand’s Chairman Mr. Mohamed Alabbar and its Chief Executive and Co-Founder, Mr. Olivier Crespin, according to a statement.

“We have a strong group of shareholders who believe in creating long-term value for our customers. With their support, Zand is set to reshape the future of banking,” said Mr. Alabbar.

The concept of digital-only banks is gaining traction in the UAE on the back of an increasingly digital-savvy consumer base and the rise of fintech opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic, which led to lockdowns around the world, hastened the move into digital services as consumers switched to cashless payments and online shopping.

Some traditional financial institutions have already set up neobanks, with lenders such as Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), Emirates NBD and Mashreq launching digital-forward operations through Hayyak, Liv and Mashreq Neo, respectively. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, the biggest Sharia-compliant lender in the emirate, launched a digital-only bank called Amwali last year.

Independent digital banks are also entering the market, including Al Maryah Community Bank, which secured a license from the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) in April last year. Last week, Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ also announced that it received in-principle approval from the CBUAE to launch Wio, a new digital banking platform.

Zand is currently awaiting final regulatory approval from the CBUAE and expects to launch imminently. The new entity aims to be a digital economic accelerator and serve as a platform for wider digital services that focus on businesses and people.

“We have an ideal foundation to launch Zand with shareholders who encompass a completely local and international ecosystem,” said Mr. Crespin.

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