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There are about 50 banks in the UAE, about half domestic and half foreign. The top banks account for about 70 percent of total commercial banking assets, and include:
- National Bank of Abu Dhabi
- Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
- Emirates Bank International
- National Bank Dubai
- HSBC Bank Middle East
- Mashreq Bank
- Dubai Islamic Bank
- Union National Bank
- Standard Charter Bank
- RBC Bank
The UAE Central Bank is the primary financial regulatory authority. It is mandated to direct monetary, credit and banking policy and supervise over its implementation in accordance with the state's general policy and in such ways as to help support the national economy and stability of the currency.
The global Islamic finance sector has been growing rapidly. Islamic finance is not just for Muslims but is based on an Islamic ethical foundation. Trade in money for the sake of profit is forbidden, but trade in goods is permitted. Transactions must be based on assets or other tangible goods, in order to avoid what is considered usury, not in compliance with sharia. Islamic banks have a different structure from traditional banks but the services they offer are similar.
The UAE hosts two stock exchanges: the NASDAQ Dubai and the Abu Dhabi Securities Market (ADSM).
Overseas investments have been a critical component of the UAE’s economic development strategy for decades as the country has sought to diversify where and how it invests its financial assets. The UAE Government regards such investment as a security net for future generations who will one day face a depletion of the country’s energy resources.
This strategy led to the creation of a number of government-owned investment institutions such as:
- Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA)
- Abu Dhabi Investment Council (ADIC)
- Mubadala Development Company (MDC)
- International Petroleum Investment Company (IPIC)
- Dubai World
- Dubai International Capital (DIC)
These government investment organizations have been active and responsible participants in global financial markets for more than three decades. Representing patient and responsible capital, these professionally managed entities include some of the world’s oldest, biggest and most respected government investment funds.
Like private equity firms, pension funds and other institutional investors, UAE investment organizations seek to maximize risk-adjusted returns.
Recently, Abu Dhabi investment institutions clarified their roles and investment approaches and took a number of steps to enhance international understanding and cooperation. In particular, they clarified that they haven’t ever and will never use its investment organizations or individual investments as a foreign policy tool.
The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) co-chaired the IMF-sponsored International Working Group (IWG) to create the first-ever set of best practices. The IWG comprises both investing and recipient countries and reached a shared set of principles called the “Santiago Principles.”
In this process, Abu Dhabi has accepted the need of other governments for increased scrutiny of in-bound investments that have potential national security implications—so long as the process is clear, fair and timely. For example, Abu Dhabi investment organizations to date have been comfortable with, and fully accept, the new Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review process, and remain committed to abiding by both the letter and the spirit of the new law.
The Arab World Competitiveness Report 2007, issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF), ranks the UAE in the top position among Arab countries and in the 29th position among the 40 most advanced economies. It states that “Sound economic management has contributed to stabilizing the macroeconomic environment and strengthening public institutions.”