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European Expats Have Low Expectations of Banks in UAE

A fascinating new study has recently been published, which focuses on banking in the United Arab Emirates. The goal of the survey of over 500 UAE-based bank users aimed to benchmark customer satisfaction and provide guidance for future improvement in the Gulf banking sector.

The UAE has been described as “over banked” simply because there are so many banks and ATMs in comparison to many other countries. Access to banking services is at an all-time high, and such ubiquity should be fostering fierce competition and rising standards. However the study suggests that this may not necessarily be the case.

Possibly the most interesting result from the Brave Index is how different nationalities find the levels of service received in the UAE. When asked whether the Emirati banks lived up to their expectations, 71% of Asian expats said they expected more than they were receiving. This is in contrast to UAE nationals, of whom only 55% made a similar statement.

Most surprisingly of all, only 32% of European expats claim they were receiving service below their expectations. The reason seems unlikely to be the actual levels of service received from banks in the UAE and has far more to do with expectations of different nationalities.

Further divisions are also obvious between different ethnic groups of expats here. For example the study found that the greatest expectation that European expats had was for “innovative products” whilst Asian expats were more concerned with interest rates. For UAE nationals however the key expectation was one of social consciousness.

The message is quite clear. While the banking sector in the UAE is enormous, this new study suggests that there are clear divisions in the market. Different groups of expats expect different things from their bank, and these are largely also different to what locals expect.

For one thing, therefore, it has been suggested that banks should carefully refine their offering, in an attempt to tailor-make their products and services and thus to appeal to specific, under-served demographics.

For expats it seems that choosing a bank in the UAE isn’t easy. With so many disappointed expat bank account holders, new expats are encouraged to carefully consider each bank in turn before making a selection. Speaking to established expats about who they bank with, and their experiences, can go a long way to ensuring that you end up with an account that you will be happy with.

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