Trusted savings partner

 

 

 

 

National Bonds has been advising and helping individuals to achieve a sustainable financial security since 2006. Mohammed Qasim Al Ali, CEO, National Bonds is the leader behind the results-oriented strategy of this company. In this exclusive interview, he talks about their modus operandi and the recent results from The Employees Savings Program.

 

 

What are the measures one needs to take into account when buying National Bonds certificates?

The first and most important measure before even buying National Bonds certificates is to ensure a strong will to save. Potential savers should not consider it a one-time effort, but accept it as the start of a long journey towards peace of mind. This journey requires planning and commitment. Most people tend to be very excited when they first put aside a large amount of money as a saving. More often than not, they fail to show the same commitment month on month. We always advise our customers to save 10% to 20% of their monthly income. With National Bonds, you can start saving with a minimum balance of AED100. That is what differentiates us from any other savings product in the market.

Our aim is not merely to sell National Bonds, but rather to develop the financial literacy and need to save in the community. The bond certificate is definitely not a lottery ticket. It is a sharia-compliant product, which is designed to provide people financial security and a better future. If we are giving bondholders prizes, it is only to recognize their efforts and commitment to regular saving.

 

What are the benefits and risks associated with National Bonds?

National Bonds is fully owned by Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), the sovereign wealth fund of Dubai. Pursuing an income generation strategy, National Bonds invests the mudaraba fund in a balanced pool of varied asset classes. Till date, the fund has generated about 56% returns to bondholders. The bondholders also enjoy access to the richest prize pool in the region valued at approximately AED46 million annually. The money you save with us grows with time and gives you good returns depending on the period for which you save. Furthermore, you have the total freedom to withdraw your savings whenever you wish to.

 

How did National Bonds evolve since its inception?

Since inception in 2006, National Bonds has worked relentlessly to inculcate the habit of savings in the UAE. Our experience has been overwhelming, and as we grew, we have attracted customers from diverse nationalities and backgrounds.

Over the years, our journey has become more challenging with the rise of consumerism and the growth of the advertising and marketing industry. The desire to always ‘have more’ has become a fundamental aspect of modern society. To keep pace with this growing trend, National Bonds is working to address the psychological and spiritual impact of consumerism, and see how we can reverse the trend. The core of our awareness strategy is to ‘detox’ public mindsets and prevent them from being manipulated every single minute through subliminal messages and false claims that can be self-destructive.

We can now proudly say we have earned our reputation of being ‘the trusted savings partner’ by being receptive to people’s needs and aspirations and by advising them on best solutions for a sustainable financial security. Today, our customer base exceeds 780,000 bondholders across 200 different nationalities in the UAE with a mudaraba fund size of AED5.6 billion.

 

As the Middle East’s first sharia-compliant savings and investment scheme based on bond certificates, what strategy did you adopt to develop your business in the last few years?

Our priority is to make savings easy, convenient and exciting to the extent possible. We also stress on being customer-centric as is evident in our portfolio of varied products and services. Our prize pool also validates this approach through segregating the prizes for locals, expats, women, children and regular savers. We remain committed to our mission to help people adopt the discipline of saving. To achieve this priority, we joined hands with several public and private sector entities and individuals to grow wealth and investments in the region. This mission evolved and has assumed many facets as people’s aspirations continue to grow. We will keep innovating to ensure the delicate balance between spending and saving is always maintained.

 

How do you guarantee credible and safe savings opportunities for bondholders?

National Bonds is licensed and regulated by the UAE Central Bank and we were the first to introduce sharia compliant savings schemes in 2006. Our customers are loyal to us simply because of the exponential difference that they experience in their lives since opting to save with National Bonds. They are happy to see their money grow whether through our long-term investments in real assets or through the benefits they gain from their savings that include a host of the prizes and returns. Knowing their hard-earned resources are safeguarded and invested in the best instruments gives them a real sense of achievement, not the temporary ‘high’ that is all one gets through spending.

 

How do you encourage the public to regularly save in order to secure a promising future?

As I mentioned earlier, our mission is not easy. Our primary goal is to nurture a healthy financial lifestyle so people can enjoy their money and spend wisely on what they really need without compromising their financial wellbeing.

Over the years, we have realized how easy it is for people to develop bad habits rather than good ones. You can easily drive someone to smoke or buy irrelevant items, but it takes considerable effort, patience and knowledge to make people adopt life-changing good habits. With money and material goods, it’s really hard to convince someone to get off the consumer bandwagon but we are happy to note that the number of savers is increasing and the will to save is growing, even if steadily. One effective tool we used is the launch of the ‘Monthly Saver’ program that encourages bondholders to develop a disciplined saving plan via the bank direct debit instrument.

I believe saving should become a national priority just as saving natural resources has taken on huge importance! We all know continued growth entails using more resources. As these resources are depleted, the productive capacity of future generations is compromised, as will be their chance at earning a decent livelihood. The same logic can be applied to spending money too.

 

What is the importance of the National Bonds Employees Savings Program for companies in the UAE?

The Employees Savings Program is one of National Bonds’ major strategies to boost the culture of savings among employees as they constitute the majority segment in the UAE. The program allows expat employees to save for contingencies or requirements such as children’s education, purchase of property, and retirement planning given the fact that gratuity alone does not provide sufficient cover.

Shortly after joining the ESP, employees have confirmed they start feeling more relaxed and productive while employers say they enjoy greater peace of mind. It is a scientifically proven fact that financial stability of employees is crucial to their productivity and infuses positive energy in the workplace.

The ESP is a convenient and simple tool to save with its automatic monthly deduction feature. Employees are only asked to enroll for the program and determine the amount they want deducted from their salary so they can start the journey towards a sustainable financial future. Furthermore, as their savings increase the fear of losing jobs starts diminishing. Feeling more financially secure makes them more relaxed and consequently, more productive.  A win-win situation for companies, employers and employees!

 

Can you share with us the percentage of savers in the UAE when compared to other countries in the region?

The National Bonds Savings Index 2014 highlights that the UAE has the largest proportion of people in the GCC at both ends of the scale - from 830 people polled, 37% are ‘regular savers’, while 17% ‘have not yet made any attempt to save’. In the UAE, Asian and Western expats are considerably more likely to save on a regular basis than Emiratis and Arab expats. The vast majority of regular savers across the region tend to save on a monthly basis. Oman accounts for 40% of regular savers, Bahrain for 38%, Kuwait for 30% and Saudi Arabia for 27% of regular savers.

 

 

 

 

About Mohammed Qasim Al Ali

Mohammed Qasim Al Ali is the Chief Executive Officer of National Bonds Corporation, PJSC. He has over 20 years of management experience in the airline and ground handling industry, and held senior management positions at the commercial divisions within the Emirates Group. He has earlier served as General Manager for the UK and Ireland operations of Emirates airlines and as Vice-President of Customer Service and Operations at Dnata.

Mohammed holds a graduate degree in Aviation Management from the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) and an IATA Diploma in Airline Management.

 

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