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Zand, a digital bank helmed by Dubai property tycoon Mohamed Alabbar and backed by investors including Franklin Templeton, has been granted a banking license by the United Arab Emirates.

“We got our banking license on June 30, and we celebrated by welcoming our first corporate customers,” co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Olivier Crespin said. “Zand’s corporate offerings will be made available to our customers incrementally.”

Zand Bank PJSC, as the firm will be known, will be the first digital bank to provide retail and corporate services in the UAE. 

The UAE is attempting to broaden access to financial services by opening up its banking system to digital banks, which have taken off with the spread of finance technology in Middle East -- a region with high internet penetration and a largely young population.

Zand will compete with other digital platforms including Wio, backed by Abu Dhabi wealth fund ADQ, and units of traditional banks including Dubai’s Emirates NBD. The firm’s other investors include Aditya Birla Group, Abu Dhabi’s Al Hail Holding, Al Sayyah & Sons Investments, Global Development Group, Yusuff Ali of Lulu Group, and Crespin.

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