With Moscow playing an increasingly important role in Middle Eastern affairs, the Russian state-owned bank hopes to boost business and trade relations.
Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, received preliminary regulatory approval in September to set up a subsidiary in the United Arab Emirates. Sberinvest Middle East offices are expected to open in Abu Dhabi early 2021.
To break into the local market as quickly as possible, Sberbank is betting on Islamic finance, appointing a dedicated Chief Islamic Finance Officer—Behnam Gurbanzada.
Alongside his career at Sberbank, Gurbanzada was one of the pioneers of Russian Islamic finance when he founded PayZakat, a Moscow-based fintech that facilitates charity payments for Russian Muslims. In Sberbank’s new Abu Dhabi offices, Gurbanzada will run a fully licensed shariah-compliant department, which will oversee a wide set of halal investment and trading tools.
With Moscow playing an increasingly important role in Middle Eastern affairs, the Russian state-owned bank hopes to boost business and trade relations. The bank’s primary objective is to become a key partner in all upcoming deals between Russian and Middle Eastern investors.
“A physical presence in the region will position us to directly promote partnerships with Middle Eastern investors for their projects in Russia, as well as the export of Russian products to the Middle Eastern countries. We also have big plans to export Russian food products to the Gulf states,” said Oleg Ganeev, chairman of the board of Sberinvest Middle East, in a press release. Sberbank is reportedly already cooperating with Middle Eastern fund managers and financial institutions over project financing.
Meanwhile, on the private banking front, UBS Group AG is expanding its footprint in the Middle East by venturing into Qatar. In November, the Zurich-based bank signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar’s investment agency to set up significant wealth management operations in Doha. While UBS is getting ready to onboard some of the world’s richest clients, Qatar is hoping to accelerate financial digitization and enhance interaction with international markets. UBS already has offices in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.