There are not many places in the world where banks have a good reputation. The legacy of the global financial crisis is continuing to be felt, with widespread banker-bashing in the West.
The UAE industry has been more immune to this trend, but it is well aware of its poor reputation. The ease with which consumers have been able to load up on unsustainable debts and then leave the country when they cannot repay them has prompted a wave of reforms.
A new credit bureau will enable lenders to share data and ensure retail customers are not over-borrowing from several different banks. A new code of conduct will police the behaviour of lenders and is intended to prevent unscrupulous bankers taking advantage of consumers. Mortgage regulations will also cap the amount that can be borrowed to buy a home.
All of these are good initiatives that should help prevent bank lending from inflating an asset price bubble, and limit the ability of consumers to overload on borrowed money.
To demonstrate how serious it is about both improving its image and ensuring all participants tow the line, the UAEs banking sector is asking the regulator to fine lenders that fail to adhere to the new mortgage regulations. It is expected to mark the start of efforts by the UAE Banks Federation to force lenders, as institutions and individual bankers, to comply with the code of conduct.
As the UAE banking sector increasingly matures, it is acknowledging the vital role it plays in the countrys economy. A strong, ethical and transparent banking industry is a key part of creating a bedrock of stable growth.