When United Bank arrived in Baghdad in 1983, nobody could imagine that it would become one of the leading banking institutions in the country. From its beginnings, the bank has since branched out to create four main branches nationwide and its initial 1 billion dinar ($869,000) capital has grown impressively to reach 250 billion dinars. Now, it has made 60 billion dinars in profit, which is the largest amount ever in Iraqi history.
United Bank’s bet on Iraq was not visualised as a short-term strategy and this has been the key to its success. Jordan Dabbas Group, United Bank’s owner, focused on a long-term, forward-thinking approach with international cooperation and investment.
Building the infrastructure of a solid banking and financial system is helping to strengthen the Kurdish economy, enable the private sector to flourish and society as a whole to develop.
United Bank is also contributing to the development of the nation’s education in terms of banking, which is very low, even if it has a very bright future. United Bank supports companies by providing bonds for investors and it helps educate traders by allowing them to understand what taking out a loan really means, thereby ensuring profits are kept safe for the bank.
“We are constantly supporting trade and are committed to the development of Iraq,” says Haitham Al Dabbas, Vice-Chairman of the bank.
The development of the private banking sector contributes to a large extent in enhancing the Iraqi economy.
Fadel Al Dabbas,
Chairman of United Bank for Investment
We are constantly
supporting trade and are committed
to the development of Iraq.
Haitham Al Dabbas,
Vice-Chairman of United Bank for Investment
However, the commitment of United Bank to Iraq’s development is not only focused on the training of its people with regard to banking. It tries to be much closer to society’s main everyday concerns.
“A strong private sector is the key to the development of Iraq,” says Mr Al Dabbas.
United Bank has the firm belief that the most effective way of doing this is by investing in a number of sectors, including agriculture, industrial enterprises, trade, tourism, construction and service projects. Its investments allow such sectors to grow and also help to encourage and facilitate foreign investment.
The success story of United Bank was driven by Mr Al Dabbas’ older brother, Fadel Al Dabbas, Chairman of the Board of Directors who played an integral role in the bank’s positive upward trend in recent years.
“The development of the private banking sector contributes to a large extent in enhancing the Iraqi economy,” he says.
Today, Kurdistan is rapidly becoming the ideal place to expand commercial and retail banking activities. United Bank has more than 15 branches in Kurdistan’s major cities of Suleimaniya, Erbil and Duhok. No less than 30 private banks are now operating in the region, mainly from Middle Eastern countries.
The rapid growth of these entities is a sign of confidence that the Kurdistan Region is an optimal destination to expand commercial and retail banking businesses in Iraq. Furthermore, Iraq’s government banks are also operating branches in Kurdistan.
There is considerable room for growth in the region’s banking sector. Despite Kurdistan’s growing oil wealth, only 20 per cent of people have bank accounts and 70 per cent of business payments are made in cash. Only recently are cash machines starting to appear in Kurdistan’s cities.
A look at the investment statistics from the past couple of years and a comparison with those of 2012, shows that investment in Iraq and Kurdistan is on the way to doubling. Iraq and Kurdistan have seen their security situation improve and that has sent a very good signal for foreign investors.
“Having our own regional government has encouraged us to start afresh; security and stability are some of the positive attributes of Kurdistan’s burgeoning economy,” says Bayiz Saeed Mohammad Talabani, Minister of Finance and Economy of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
Economic growth in recent years has been impressive and the banking and financial sectors are supporting it. Both public and private sectors are working hand in hand to establish and develop a modern financial system, and they are succeeding. The aim is to measure up to international standards and be connected to world markets. And to reach this goal, foreign direct investment – along with local investment – is needed.
“Financial support continues to be a key priority of the Kurdish economy,” says Mr Talabani. “We welcome those interested in participating in our development projects.”
The emergence of a network of international banks in the Kurdistan Region is enabling the population to learn and to have access to international banking services present in the country, whose business and investment climate has improved over the years. In addition, a lot of administrative facilities have been incorporated, which has made investing in the banking sector much easier today.
Some 16.67 per cent of capital investment is dedicated to investment in the banking sector, which means around $2.3 billion in investment projects in the region. The upcoming opening of the Erbil Stock Exchange will offer greater flexibility and transparency for foreign investors and bring Kurdistan closer to the international financial community.
The market in Kurdistan offers some of the largest and most fruitful investments in the world today. With 45 billion barrels of oil reserves and relative safety, the Kurdistan investment market will be one of the most profitable over the next three to five years.
British investors are more than welcome here. Last September, Iraq held a major London convention and offered investors a stake in the country’s economic and financial future. It represented a chance for foreign investors to discover the impressive financial potential in a stabilised Iraq.
Huge opportunities exist across various industries and the appropriate financing and domestic banking sector is being fully established. A very good example of this stability is United Bank. Its Vice-Chairman invites foreign investors to come and see: “Invest in our stocks and be confident in the security and stability of our bank,” he says.