Mideast banks tap women’s wealth
Emirati housewife Sarah Alzarouni brushed past a group of women clad in floor-length black robes, some with only their eyes showing, to enter through the frosted doors of one of Dubai Islamic Bank’s women-only branches.
Clutching a Louis Vuitton bag to match her designer head scarf, Ms. Alzarouni greeted the female tellers and bank manager with three kisses on the cheek and sat down to do business.
Financial institutions in the conservative Gulf Arab region, where many women are reluctant to mix with men outside their families, are tapping into the niche, with women-only bank branches and investment funds mushrooming.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam where unrelated men and women are not allowed to mix, is leading the charge.
Industry experts say more women need to participate in the Islamic banking industry at senior levels to help grow products that appeal to a female clientele. But while the finance industry remains a boys club around the world, the glass ceiling is lower in the Middle East.