Israel's Hapoalim expects UAE bank ties to follow normalisation

DUBAI (Reuters) - Israel's largest lender Bank Hapoalim POLI.TA expects to start working with banks in the United Arab Emirates once the two Middle East states sign a normalisation agreement, its chief executive said on Wednesday.

FILE PHOTO: A woman uses an automated teller machine (ATM) outside a Bank Hapoalim branch in Tel Aviv, Israel May 30, 2013. REUTERS/Nir Elias/File Photo

The UAE and Israel are due to sign the agreement, brokered by the United States, on Sept. 15 at a ceremony held by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The three sides have talked up the economic opportunities that normalisation would bring and several business cooperation agreements have already been signed.

Hapoalim CEO Dov Kotler said a correspondent banking relationship facilitating direct money transfers between the countries would help develop trade and business ties.

“I believe that after the governments sign the agreement next week we will be able to work with the banking system here,” he told Reuters during a visit to the UAE.

In correspondent banking, a bank with no branch or network in a given country will typically channel payments there through a local bank that acts on its behalf.

Kotler is leading an Israeli business delegation on a two-day visit to the UAE as the two countries develop bilateral economic relations.

“We are here to build trust before talking business. In order to build trust I believe we have to meet face to face and that is what we are doing,” he said.

Israel and the UAE on Aug. 13 agreed to normalise relations, making the UAE the first Gulf country and the third Arab state to do so when a final accord is signed.

Kotler said he believed Hapoalim would establish relationships with the three largest lenders in the UAE, though declined to name the banks.

The UAE's largest lender First Abu Dhabi Bank FAB.AD has said it would open discussions with Hapoalim and Bank Leumi LUMI.TA, another Israeli bank.

Bank Leumi is to lead a delegation to the UAE on Sept. 14.

Emirates BND ENBD.DU, Dubai's largest bank, declined to comment on the visit of Hapoalim this week.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell; editing by Jacqueline Wong and Jason Neely