Europe Economy

Gulf Bank's CEO Looking East for Growth

Reported by Yousef Gamal El-Din, Written by Guillaume Desjardins

The European debt crisis is worrisome but it is unlikely to pose a danger to major banks on the continent, Michael H. Tomalin, CEO of the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, told CNBC.

Abu Dhbai
Photo by Altaf Hussein

"The current situation is certainly very tricky," said Tomalin, adding that when it comes to major banks, "we have to continue to deal with them… and I believe that there will not be massive problems with the major European banks."

To Tomalin, the main European banks are still major business partners.

"We continue to do business with them as counterparties," he explained, "they are major counterparties in the market place, in derivatives, in the options, in , and in money markets , in foreign exchange markets, so we continue to mark lines and do business the ordinary way."

Abu Dhabi, as well as other Gulf countries, benefits from a central position, halfway between Europe and Asia.

Growth will clearly come from Asia, Tomalin said, before talking about "a shifting of tectonic plates from the West to the East." The Bank of Abu Dhabi is turning its eyes towards the region because it sees "a lot of growth in the business with Asia," he added.

"We are not opening embassies when we open branches abroad," he said, "we are following our customers. And we are following our customers as they look more at the East for trade and investment opportunities."

The bank had opened a new branch in Hong Kong a couple of years ago.

In Malaysia, "we have all the approvals in place, and we're in the process now of finding a place to set up our first shop," Tomalin said, "beyond that, we are going to open a representative office in Shanghai in the first quarter of the year and another market that's very important for us going forward is India ."