The National Bank of Fujairah (NBF) is planning to open a representative office in Antwerp as it looks to capitalize on the decline in financing to the Belgian city’s diamond sector.
“I’ve been pushing for the move for a long time because there’s an opportunity to cherry-pick some clients,” Davy Blommaert, head of diamond lending at NBF, told Rapaport News on the sidelines of the Dubai Diamond Conference on Tuesday.
Blommaert participated in a fact-finding mission to Antwerp in June, along with NBF’s CEO and other executives, to explore the possibilities of servicing the Antwerp diamond industry.
He noted that a gap had opened as European banks cut their lending to the diamond sector, with Antwerp Diamond Bank (ADB) closing its doors and Standard Chartered Bank withdrawing from lending to the diamond trade.
The NBF delegation met with representatives from Belgium’s central bank, the Antwerp World Diamond Centre (AWDC) and prospective clients, and Blommaert expects the office to open in the first quarter of 2018. It will enable the bank to service Antwerp-based companies with dollar-based lending in Dubai.
NBF opened its diamond-focused branch in 2015 and Blommaert reported it had gained steady market share since, ranking behind ABN Amro as the second-largest lender to Dubai’s diamond trade. With the Dubai business now firmly established, Blommaert said its expansion into Antwerp was a test for possible penetration into other markets.