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ABN Amro Bank is seriously considering launching its Islamic finance operations from Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

The country representative of ABN Amro, Jan Willem Van den Bosch, says it is awaiting the formal announcement from DIFC regarding the issuance of a licence so that the bank can move ahead with its plans on Islamic finance.

“We would also be keen to look at other opportunities available at DIFC, especially asset management,” he says.

ABN Amro, which does not have Islamic finance operations, sees in DIFC a good platform to launch the service, growing at over 20%. The bank has plans to take many of its regional functions to DIFC once the centre is operational.

“Being in the project financing activity for the oil and gas industry, it makes better sense for ABN Amro to have a presence in DIFC,” he adds.

It has already applied to the central bank for approval of its branch expansion in the UAE. The central bank has announced its intention to ease the terms for foreign banks to expand their branch networks.

ABN Amro has three branches in the UAE although foreign banks are allowed to operate up to eight branches. Van den Bosch says he received a favourable response from the central bank on the branch expansion and the formal go-ahead is expected soon.

The bank is said to be also looking at consumer trade, IT, telecom and oil and gas as growth areas. Jan Willem says the bank is serious about businesses within financial institutions.

Other areas where ABN Amro sees growth avenues are the consumer sector and the private clients business.

“Here, we deal with high net worth individuals for whom we have tailor-made solutions. Of course, there is a lot of wealth in the Middle East and we certainly want to be part of it,” he adds.