National Bank of Abu Dhabi - gearing up to be a market leader in electronic distribution across the MENA region

e-Forex speaks with David Wilkins, Head of Global Markets e-commerce at National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD).

First Published: e-Forex Magazine 72 / Regional Provider Profile / July, 2016

David, how does the Global Markets e-commerce business unit fit into the overall group structure of NBAD and what are its key responsibilities?

DW: Like a glove – We’re at the fingertips, the palm, the base, even the stitching……Our management support and embrace E-Commerce at every level understanding at a group level the efficiencies of scale we can achieve therefore as an E-Commerce unit our remit has widened to now look at also providing solutions bank wide.

The key responsibilities as a Global Markets E-Commerce business cover not only the Foreign Exchange and Money Markets exposures of our core clients of wholesale banking but also those  bank wide. This ensures a core One Bank alignment to any area requiring a price – retail, commercial, institutional and enablement functions. This alignment provides pricing to underpin flows from a region that is heavily populated with non-nationals who ultimately remit a large proportion of their earnings to their origination countries and/or international trade lines requiring payments for goods and services in multiple currencies..

Why did NBAD decide to set up a dedicated Global Markets e-commerce development team and move away from white label offerings to develop its own proprietary solutions? 

DW: Moving away from the White-label solution was an easy decision for us. 
Ignoring the obvious responses around scale and control, geographically we sit in the middle of the trading day, capturing both East as well as West getting over half of the Asian-Pacific trading day along with most of the active hours in Europe and the Americas. 
Thus we actually find ourselves running a 24x7 business week unlike the rest of the world and for this you need to be able to customize your pricing engine, its libraries and have the flexibility around dates and multiple contribution calendars to meet that 24x7 risk model.

We start our week on a Sunday for the regional currency coverage, continue through to a Friday for conventional Global Markets and keep going into a Saturday for the regional commercial coverage needs.

An important part of your recent work has involved building and rebranding your offering under “NBAD Emerald”. What functionality does this now provide?

DW:  Our core focus continues on expanding our GGC products and our geographical reach with a healthy pipeline of connections over differing distribution mediums. True to our ambition we continue to construct prices in currency crosses that may not be widely available elsewhere and over other platforms.

The Emerald Platform itself continues its growth of FX & Money Markets with intuitive tools and functionality for the users. With the One bank alignment we also focus on building for our retail and enablement functions and integrating FX adaptors to our core banking areas to ensure best execution for our bank wide divisions.

Emerald
Emerald

NBAD is among a very few banks in the Middle East to have developed its own portal. What advantages does that have?

DW: The obvious is leadership in an ever evolving economic and socially sustainable community. It’s flattering to know we were ahead of the rest sourcing our FinTech Development Partner Celer Technologies to give us the leading advantage in a region that’s embracing the age of the digital movement. With Celer having built flexible and dynamic foundations we can continue to grow and customize our offerings with an ambition to one day white-label our offering to regional partners. This gives them the ability to take advantage of what we’ve achieved for their own client base accessing our complex but flexible pricing libraries for liquidity and utilizing our front ends for their distribution.

What steps have you taken to leverage the latest e-FX technologies in order to meet demand from your clients and ensure you have adequate scalability and flexibility in the future?

DW: Celer technologies under the management of our NBAD Technical Managers have taken our strategic book of work and aggressive timelines and tailored our code releases into multiple iterative deployments all forming a cohesive and flexible foundational spine.

We then placed on top of this spine modular deliverables that allowed for customizable and interchangeable requirements to ensure we met different services, products and features needs. The code itself being in Java FX ensures a flexible UI and allows speed of turnaround for customized views and interfaces from requirements to build with our product management team employing numerous unconventional scrums that allowed us to build the end-to-end base offering in 2 years. 

But we’re a long way from where we want to be with ever growing ambitions servicing the broad spectrum and multi-faceted community that require pricing 24x7. For this we must continue to keep adapting the way we receive, compute and deliver requirements and the code.

Customizable Components
Customizable Components

NBAD Emerald and pricing via selected ECNs is primarily focused on delivering Global Markets FX services. What range of clients are benefiting from this? 

DW: I won’t comment on our client specific segmentation but primarily our focus is on delivering our core competences around MENA and the wider Global Markets services to core clients of NBAD’s wholesale banking divisions stretching beyond the domestic market and this includes key client sectors across the West-East corridor.  We are also aligned to facilitate flow business with our bilateral counterparties and transactional clients and as mentioned earlier now internally aligning ourselves with all areas of NBAD that require pricing.

In what ways has upgrading your electronic delivery channels assisted a wider range of international clients to gain greater access to regional products, including FX, money market deposits, fixed income and NBAD’s research capabilities?

DW: Everything is an evolution and for now we’re focussing on the FX & Money Markets capabilities. Emerald (and our APIs) can be used in an array of ways in multiple geographies, whether it is the leading integrated product for a client or a simple handshake mechanism extending our expertize, it allows us to complement our strategic global plans with further value added products and services in our wholesale Bank tool-kit.

How do NBAD’s e-commerce solutions help to strengthen bilateral relationships with your partner banks and provide them with better access to your markets and liquidity?

DW: As like we work and rely on partner banks to provide liquidity in their core competencies we too can offer the same bi-laterally in our markets further strengthening the global alliance and develop greater access for products and services.

Emerald Lite
Emerald Lite

How important is NBAD’s e-commerce strategy in helping the bank to position itself as a premier distributor of GCC and MENA markets products?

DW: Paramount – although I would state we are the premier distributors already with a  highly skilled and qualified Global Markets division now complemented by the same in London and Hong Kong. 

As I often state, technology is becoming cheaper but skilled manpower remains expensive, thus our E-Commerce offerings support this distribution allowing for further and greater reach in geographies we wish to connect in a more lightweight and cost effective manner.

Looking ahead how will you be looking to enhance your existing e-FX products and services to help NBAD in its efforts to become the market leader in electronic distribution across the MENA region?

DW: The key to our success is remaining true to our core expertize and growing and sharing that with our clients. All of this needs to be and remain client driven and client relevant delivered in an intuitive way.  The ideas are endless as is the ambition of NBAD but we know the competition is growing. What is paramount is that whatever we deliver and how we deliver it for our clients must come with the best in class service and support.