Leading the way in the Middle East


Leading the way in the Middle East Ethical BoardroomBy Samer Abdelhaq – Senior Managing Director and Group General Counsel, NBAD






At National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) we have a long history of good corporate governance and are proud to be recognised by Ethical Boardroom as providing the ‘Best Governance for a Financial Institution in the Middle East’.

As the leading bank in the Middle East and ranked the 25th safest bank in the world, being acknowledged as having strong corporate governance practices is an important validation of our aim to develop sustainable and consistent profit in a responsible manner.

When we opened in 1968, our focus was very much on the development of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). We were at the centre of building the financial system and industry in the UAE and, as such, proper governance structures were necessarily critical and have remained the core of who we are as an organisation.

Our deep local roots and focus on the broader economy have helped us build a leading regional reputation and are supporting us as we implement our strategy to build international business along the West-East corridor. We are always seeking to raise the bar and to set new standards of governance and integrity, so that as we expand internationally, we can compete at the highest levels. Leading the way in the Middle East Ethical Boardroom

We have always taken a long-term view and we want our customers to be with us for the long term, advising them in the biggest corporate deals and the smallest personal transactions, side by side in good times and bad.

Our success in delivering these stable relationships can be attributed to our consistent focus on achieving a strong and effective governance framework that guides our people to deliver our values and therefore a high-quality customer experience.

  • We put our customers at the forefront and ‘do the right things the right way’
  • We value our people and foster great teamwork
  • We respect our heritage and be loyal to our stakeholders
  • We empower our people and hold each other accountable for performance and behaviour

The tone is set from the very top with a code of conduct for our board of directors – the core principles of which are reflected in a broader version for our employees and management. We have also invested in significant training programmes over the last 18 months to translate our values into practical behaviours that all our employees can understand and deliver.

The programmes are creating a deeper level of engagement and awareness in our employees, both in the way they work to protect our organisation and how they develop profit for the Bank while acting in the best interests of our customers. We can see the value of this investment and our focus on ‘doing the right thing’, through rising customer satisfaction levels and increasing levels of capital deposits – particularly among our retail clients, one of the most competitive market sectors in the region.


“Our commitment to good governance is reflected in our steady profitability and our rankings in international indexes”


Acting as role models for these behaviours is one of our greatest governance assets – our board, composed of well-known business and thought leaders from respected government and private businesses who are committed to openness and transparency to build trust, not just in our organisation but also in the UAE and our industry as a whole. Their ability as a team to guide us successfully through the global financial crisis is testament to their consistency, prudence and focus on the future.

Our commitment to good governance is reflected in our steady profitability, the number and breadth of awards we have won and our rankings in international indexes. Notable among these have been our recent upgrade to AA by S&P, lifting us into an elite group of less than 20 commercial global banks rated AA with all three major ratings agencies.

In 2013, we obtained the Hawkamah Bank Corporate Governance Award for Leading Corporate for Investor Relations and our Company Secretary was named ‘Corporate Governance Officer of the Year’ at the ACC Achievements Awards. We are also the top-rated financial institution on the S&P Hawkamah ESG Pan Arab Index for 2013 and 2014 and have featured in the top 10 since it was launched in 2010.

Recent changes to our organisational structure and long-term strategy to expand internationally have only succeeded in accelerating our efforts to deliver a best-in-class governance framework. We are improving our governance documentation, benchmarking it against international standards, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Basel Corporate Governance Principles. We have designed a new governance reporting structure to ensure information is being shared quickly at the right level and without filtration; and our corporate governance team has recently been expanded and is developing centralised resources to act as a hub for our growing group network.

We are focussing now on developing a core governance model that our international subsidiaries and branches can mirror. Robust regulatory frameworks, subsidiary and compliance governance structures will ensure we are as strong and safe in our international locations as we are at home in the UAE, while allowing us to increase our responsiveness, transparency, accountability and control.

We are an integral part of the UAE’s past and are playing a crucial role in its future, helping our customers locally to branch out across the world, while providing a route for international investment into Abu Dhabi.

We are proud of our role in the society – from helping people manage their money to facilitating trade and investment. We take capital from today and deploy it effectively for tomorrow, so we are well-placed to provide sustainable livelihoods, ensure a healthy environment for the next generation and develop consistent profit in the long term, all of which will ensure we achieve our vision to be the world’s best Arab bank.



About The Author:

Samer Abdelhaq joined the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) in June 2008 as the Deputy General Counsel and became the Group General Counsel in January 2010. In addition to this Legal role, Mr. Abdelhaq became Group Board Secretary in April 2012 and, as of July 2013, is also responsible for Group Compliance. Prior to joining NBAD, Mr. Abdelhaq practiced banking and finance law with Allen & Overy and Simmons & Simmons.

Mr. Abdelhaq holds an LLB from University of Jordan, LLM in International Banking and Finance Law from Boston University, and a post-graduate Diploma in Law from Nottingham Trent University. He is also a member of the Law Society of England & Wales.