Islamic women in the UAE targeted by Perfumed bank cards

February 10, 2015 6:25 am

Islamic banks are going to new lengths to grab the market share
offered by an increasing number of working women in the Gulf region. Al
Hilal Bank PJSC, a Shariah-compliant lender owned by the Abu Dhabi
government, has been marketing a perfumed credit card since last month
to lure the rising number of women in employment in the United Arab
Emirates. The Laha card, whose Arabic name means “for her,” comes with a
bottle of perfume and has a special section to hold the fragrance.
Oman’s Bank Nizwa SAOG began specialised financial services for women in
October, while Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank PJSC created its own women’s
credit card in June.

Women’s net worth in the six-nation may grow as
much as 15 per cent to about $258 billion in the 10 years through 2023.
Photo / Getty

“The
woman’s segment is definitely an area of focus for Islamic banks and
will continue to be,” Ashruff Jamall, the Dubai-based head of the
Islamic finance division at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, said by phone on
February 2.

Al Hilal’s card “should go down well with the market. Other banks might come out with more products,” he said.
The
efforts highlight the growing economic power of women in the six-nation
Gulf Cooperation Council, where the proportion of the female population
in the labour market jumped to an average 38 per cent from 28 per cent
in the two decades through 2013, according to World Bank data.
Women’s
net worth in the GCC may grow as much as 15 per cent to about $258
billion in the 10 years through 2023, according to Kuwait Finance
Centre, an asset manager and investment bank.

Al Hilal has seen “a lot of demand” for its card, according to
Mohamed Zaqout, head of personal at the lender. In the GCC, the
majority of women have their own bank accounts, according to a PwC study
published in October. Female customers are less “prone to switching
banks” than men, Jamall said this week.
“One of our missions is
ensuring Islamic banking caters to all the segments, including modern
UAE women,” Al Hilal’s Zaqout said by phone from Abu Dhabi on January
26. “The Islamic market is growing and we wanted to offer something
unique to this important sector.”
The female focus is not
necessarily new. Dubai Islamic Bank PJSC, the biggest Shariah-compliant
lender in the UAE, has had a segment of the business called Johara
dedicated to women since 2000, and currently has seven exclusive
branches. The women’s business is an important and “very profitable”
unit for the bank, Chief Executive Officer Adnan Chilwan said at a press
event in Dubai on January 25, declining to provide figures.

The
women sector has been comparatively neglected in the past and women are
now becoming increasingly more independent in respect to looking after
their own banking needs.

Ashruff Jamall, PricewaterhouseCoopers

“The
women sector has been comparatively neglected in the past and women are
now becoming increasingly more independent in respect to looking after
their own banking needs,” Jamall said by email yesterday. “It has become
a natural area of focus for Islamic banks.”
Oman’s Bank Nizwa in
October introduced a ladies’ banking service in response to what it
called a “dramatic increase” in the percentage of women in the
workforce. Female workers climbed to 29 per cent from 18 per cent in the
two decades through 2013, as the country’s population almost doubled,
according to World Bank data.
In the UAE, the gains were more
dramatic. About 47 per cent of women held jobs in 2013, compared with 29
per cent two decades earlier. The country’s population grew more than
four-fold in the period.
While women are present in greater
numbers in the workforce, their roles remain limited. In most developing
countries, less than 10 per cent of senior positions are held by women,
and in the majority of Middle Eastern nations it is under 2 per cent,
data compiled by Bloomberg show.
In Abu Dhabi, where Al Hilal
Bank is based, about 16 per cent of the total workforce was female in
2013, according to data provided by the government. Women, including
Emirati and foreign nationals, accounted for about a quarter of the
population in the UAE in 2010, according to government data.
“GCC
women are being empowered and have the liberty and influence to make
decisions on their own,” Muhammad Ashfaq-Ur-Rehman, an independent
Islamic finance consultant who previously worked at Standard Chartered
Plc, said by email on February 2. “Any offering catering to women would
certainly elevate the performance and increase the acceptance level.”

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