ABN Amro, the largest and longstanding financier to the diamond and jewelry industry, is closing its lending offices in New York and Dubai as it continues to cut back on financing to the trade as a whole. Brigitte Seegers, a spokeswoman for the Dutch bank, initially announced the move during a first quarter earnings call last week, which will leave Antwerp and Hong Kong as the bank's last divisions standing. She said the bank would, “work to further improve the risk profile of those portfolios.”
“We are discontinu[ing] our local diamond and jewelry service in the United States, due to the very small portfolio,” said Seegers. “The decision to close our diamond and jewelry clients in Dubai is linked to the decision to discontinue our overall presence in the United Arab Emirates due to lack of scale. We are in close contact with our diamond and jewelry clients in these locations to find alternative solutions.” ABN AMRO chief financial officer Clifford Abrahams said, “we have reduced exposure consistently over time to [the diamond and jewelry] sector,” yet it will remain one of the few banks that still services the diamond trade. In recent years, the Antwerp Diamond Bank shut down entirely, and several lenders have eliminated their diamond and jewelry divisions, including Standard Chartered Bank, Bank Leumi (Israel), Sovereign and JPMorgan Chase.
The move comes some six months after Erik Jens, who had headed the bank’s diamond and jewelry business globally since 2012, left to pursue other opportunities. Jens was replaced by Geert van Reisen as part of a reshuffling that made ABN’s diamond and jewelry department part of the bank’s trade and commodity finance division. The company recorded $48.1 million (EUR 41 million) of impairments in the first quarter due to “challenges” in the sector, it earlier noted.