How the UAE is upholding financing with robust laws

UAE Central Bank Law and Commercial Transactions Law are key legislative instruments
How the UAE is upholding financing with robust laws
The UAE Central Bank, as the primary regulatory authority, plays a crucial role in overseeing banking activities, including unsecured financing.

The UAE has emerged as a global financial hub, attracting investors and businesses worldwide. According to Statista’s market report, the UAE banking market is expected to reach a projected net interest income of $45.11 billion this year. Traditional banks are set to dominate, with an estimated market volume of around $44 billion. Additionally, there is a growing trend toward digital banking services, with more customers choosing mobile and online banking options.

The country has enhanced its legal framework to adapt to international best practices and standards, implementing progressive legislation to tackle emerging technologies and advancements in the financial sector.

The recent removal of the UAE from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) “gray list”, a list of countries that FATF judges to be non-cooperative in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, indicates the UAE’s status as a leading global financial center. This demonstrates the UAE’s commitment to advancing a robust and transparent financial environment, reassuring investors and stakeholders alike. The nation’s proactive approach to regulatory reform not only strengthens its position in the global financial landscape but also bolsters confidence in its economy, encouraging further investment and growth.

On financing

When a company needs to raise funds, it usually sells equity, takes on debt (taking loans or selling bonds), or through retained earnings, or uses a combination of each. In debt financing, the company retains ownership, and the lender does not acquire equity in the business.

Different types of debt financing include traditional bank loans, personal loans, loans from family or friends, government loans like small business administration loans, and peer-to-peer loans. Moreover, they include home equity loans, lines of credit, credit cards, real estate loans, overdrafts, mortgages, and equipment leasing or hire purchase agreements. These loans can be secured or unsecured, where secured loans require collateral, often in the form of company assets. Meanwhile, unsecured loans usually have lower credit limits.

Central to the financial ecosystem is the practice of unsecured financing, a crucial instrument for facilitating economic growth. Unsecured financing includes various financial products, such as personal loans, credit cards, and overdraft facilities. This type of financing is provided to individuals and businesses without the requirement of collateral.

In the UAE, unsecured financing has gained prominence due to its flexibility and accessibility, catering to diverse financial needs. Banks and financial institutions offer unsecured financing to individuals for personal expenses. This includes education, healthcare, and lifestyle enhancements. They also offer them to businesses for working capital and expansion purposes.

Regulatory frameworks

With strict regulations, obtaining loans in the UAE can be a bit challenging. Firstly, the lack of a credit history poses a significant hurdle for many individuals. This is particularly true for expatriates and some Emiratis who may not have established credit histories either in the UAE or their home countries.

Moreover, banks in the UAE often have stringent borrowing criteria. They require collateral and impose other conditions such as minimum turnover requirements, a certain number of years in business, and a good credit score. The UAE Central Bank sets a cap on interest rates. However, banks may still charge high rates, especially for unsecured loans, making it difficult for businesses to access affordable financing.

The UAE has established a legal framework to regulate financial activities, ensuring transparency and stability in the banking sector. Key legislative instruments governing unsecured financing include the UAE Central Bank Law and Commercial Transactions Law.

Central bank oversees banking activities

The UAE Central Bank, as the primary regulatory authority, plays a crucial role in overseeing banking activities, including unsecured financing. It empowers the regulator to formulate policies, regulations, and guidelines to safeguard the interests of depositors, borrowers, and financial institutions. It sets prudential requirements for banks offering unsecured financing. This includes capital competence ratios, liquidity standards, and risk management practices. This way, it ensures the stability and solvency of the banking system.

The Commercial Transactions Law governs commercial transactions, including lending practices and contracts, providing a legal framework for unsecured financing agreements. It outlines the rights and obligations of parties involved in lending transactions, such as lenders’ rights to recover debts and borrowers’ obligations to repay loans. The law also addresses interest rates, fees, and default penalties, promoting transparency and fairness in lending practices.

Moreover, the UAE Central Bank issues regulations and guidelines specific to unsecured financing, covering various aspects of lending, including credit assessment, underwriting standards, and debt collection practices. These regulations aim to mitigate risks associated with unsecured lending, such as credit risk and operational risk, by imposing practical requirements on banks and enhancing consumer protection measures.

Major benefits

The legal frameworks for financing in the UAE have several benefits that contribute to the stability and growth of the financial sector.

These frameworks instill confidence among investors and lenders, encouraging them to participate in financing activities. The legal provisions provide certainty regarding rights, obligations, and dispute resolution mechanisms. This attracts domestic and international investors to the UAE’s banking sector.

The stringent regulations and oversight mechanisms protect borrowers from unfair practices by financial institutions, ensuring that they receive equal treatment and have access to recourse in case of disputes. The prudential regulations and risk management guidelines enhance the resilience of banks offering unsecured financing. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of systemic risks and financial instability. Moreover, it contributes to the overall stability of the banking system.

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Addressing challenges

While the UAE has made significant strides in its financial regulatory framework, several challenges remain. Credit accessibility for SMEs and expatriates is limited due to stringent borrowing criteria, including the need for collateral and high credit scores, which stifles entrepreneurial growth.

High interest rates on unsecured loans, despite Central Bank caps, deter businesses from seeking necessary funding. This affects startups and smaller enterprises critical for economic diversification.

Additionally, many expatriates face difficulties in securing loans due to a lack of established credit histories. The UAE needs more inclusive credit assessment methods that consider diverse financial backgrounds. Addressing these issues will enhance the inclusivity and accessibility of the financial system, allowing all economic segments to contribute to and benefit from growth.

The UAE’s commitment to upholding the sector through robust legal frameworks reflects its dedication to promoting financial stability, economic growth, and investor confidence. By enacting laws and regulations governing lending activities, the UAE ensures transparency, fairness, and accountability in providing financing. Therefore, this fosters a favorable environment for sustainable development.

Looking ahead, the UAE’s financial sector is poised for growth through strategic enhancements. Key areas include promoting fintech to lead in digital banking and blockchain technology and prioritizing green finance to attract sustainable investments and ensure long-term resilience.

Enhancing financial literacy for consumers and businesses through education programs can strengthen the financial ecosystem. Continuous regulatory updates responsive to global trends will help maintain the UAE’s competitive edge and adaptability in the evolving financial landscape.

UAE financing

Dr. Jelena Janjusevic is an associate professor, program director for MSC Finance and Management, and global director of studies in Finance, Heriot-Watt University Dubai.

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