UAE-based investment bank Rasmala will be targeting the retail sector ‘aggressively’, says Hany Saad, managing director of Rasmala Egypt Securities.

“We haven’t paid too much attention to retail, but the sector has seen 70-80 per cent growth in the past year. We will focus aggressively on it this year,” he says.

The bank will be launching its e-trading regional brokerage platform by the end of February. “It is a breakthrough in the industry, a regional platform where institutional investors and high-net investors will be able to reach most of the popular markets through one account. It is a one-stop shop,” says Saad.

It will give investors access to 14 equity markets in the Middle East, with initial access to Oman, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Riyadh and Cairo.

Speaking about the Egyptian market, Saad says: “There are a lot of good bargains in Egypt, but the Egyptian stock market needs new tools like short-selling, options and futures to create more depth, interest and liquidity.”

While conditions were tough for banks in Egypt in 2010, the country was not as severely affected as other states. Stringent regulations also saved them from over-extending leverage to clients. “Egypt’s immunity to the global economic crisis was down to the conservatism from its banks. This is why real estate did not collapse,” says Shrouk Diab, head of research.

The mortgage market contributes just 0.3 per cent to gross domestic product (GDP).

Rasmala will also focus on the foreign investor market. It signed a partnership deal with the UK’s Royal Bank of Scotland for its research department in February 2010. “Most firms are trying to liaise with one of the Western banks to attract visibility, we will be focusing more on this partnership this year,” says Saad.