Emirates Bank International (EBI) will open more branches, expand its loyalty points programme and launch home finance products to capitalise on buoyant UAE retail banking demand, its retail banking general manager Louis Scotto said in a mid-August interview in Dubai.

‘The big thing is housing finance,’ Scotto said. ‘We had a wait-and-see approach and the board was concerned about the lack of a proper legal framework. But that has now been taken care of and we will come out with a very competitive product.’

‘We are going to be flexible on downpayments and we are going to enhance our offerings to nationals as well,’ he added. ‘The next wave in the UAE real estate will be owner-occupier purchases, not rental demand.’

Scotto, who managed the launch of the meBank retail banking brand in 2001, said that 11 new branches and up to 60 offsite units will have been opened by the end of 2006. UK design consultancy Allen International is working

on a merchandising project which involves redesigning branch interiors and marketing messages. ‘We have two

pilots done,’ Scotto said. ‘I hope all branches will be done by the end of this year.’ Emirates Bank has purchased Companionpoints, the Dubai loyalty programme . Its existing meMiles loyalty programme is being revamped.

Scotto again called for the establishment of a credit bureau where information about bank lending can be cross-checked. ‘We are not looking to invade privacy,’ he said. ‘We want to see what borrowers have outstanding and the way it’s being handled.’

Emirates Bank Group (EBG), which also includes Emirates Islamic Bank, recorded net profit of AED 971 million ($264 million) in the six months ending 30 June 2006, a rise of 36 per cent over the figure recorded in the same period of 2005.

‘The growth of all areas of retail banking including card loans and personal loans continues to be extremely strong,’ Scotto said.

Louis Scotto will be a panellist at the MEED Middle East Retail Banking Conference at the InterContinental in Dubai on

26-27 November 2006.