As the GCC walks firm on the road towards going paperless, the regional banking and financial institutions are walking firm on going fully digital, eliminating the long ordeals of queueing up for services. 2018 saw numerous strides on the innovative front of automating customer services whilst enabling digital-first and digital-only banking platforms. Cutting down on branches and increasing the digital offerings has been one of the top priorities of the banks in the MENA region in 2018.
While the banks are coming up with various new solutions to automate and digitize the existing offerings, some new solution providers are coming to the mainstream who are providing a parallel experience to traditional banking services. One of the prime examples that we can site here would be a new player on the block – Xpence, who are positioning themselves as an alternative banking solution for entrepreneurs and the region’s digital only business. The providers are offering a one-stop-shop solution for business owners with smart tools and comprehensive dashboards for accounts, reports etc.
e-initiatives that have been replacing commodity banking with personalized banking has been the soul of digitization. Banks and its services are not the same for everyone. The level of personalization and priority vary generation to generation. Hence arises the needs for tailoring the solutions as per the generation and expectation of the customer. According to an Epsilon study, only 94% of banking firms are unable to deliver on personalization promise. The study also found that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with a company that offers personalized experiences.
According to Savio Tovar Dias, Senior Director – Sales Engineering, Avaya International, the need for personalization is driving the evolution of banking- after all, the sector serves a wide generational spectrum and not every millennial, Gen Xer or Baby Boomer bank the same. “The innovations that BSFI organizations introduce must therefore focus on delivering a truly hyper-personal experience and there are several technology tenants that such a vision can be built upon that include, biometrics, analytics, omni channel, artificial intelligence, blockchain, automation etc.”
According to banking experts, personalization would be one of the key differentiator that would determine the competitiveness of banks in the future.
Worry Less, It’s Cashless
According to a global study, by 2019, global mobile payment revenue is expected to surpass $1tr. The growing customer demand for seamless payment and going cashless are further propelling banks and financial institutions to eradicate traditional cards and payment method. It is also very interesting to see how the legacy card merchants are also finding a way out to retain their market positioning by innovating payment services.
“As the UAE’s largest merchant acquirer, we are delighted to enable JCB Contactless acceptance and offer JCB cardholders from across the world a seamless and convenient payment method,” said Samer Soliman, Managing Director, Middle East at Network International. “As consumers’ payment preferences evolve, we are delighted to support our network of merchant partners to keep pace with new technologies, offering them a competitive edge.” Following the partnership, JCB Contactless will be enabled across Network International’s extensive network of physical and online UAE-based merchants including Abu Dhabi and Dubai Duty Free shops, Dubai taxis and metro stations.
Analytics and Automation
Banks in the Middle East are modernizing their technology infrastructure by using data analytics as the backbone. Real time data analytics is helping banks to revisit the customer experience and better understand their needs. The amount of data generated each second will grow 700% by 2020, according to GDC prognosis. The analytics help the bank understand the various aspects of the customer behavior and purchasing patterns or understand if the customer’s salary is growing steadily and if the spending remains adequate. This acts as one of the major touchstones for risk assessment, loan screening, mortgage evaluation and cross-selling of multiple financial products like insurance. According to Avaya, the goal is for BFSIs to inherently understand each customer. This is a challenge considering the countless factors that influence preferences and behaviors. Analytics is vital for intuitively understanding these nuances as they inevitably change to deliver deeper levels of personalization. “The data we’re now able to pull out of the contact center can be used to improve the customer journey, bringing new features and offers to the customers who’ll be most receptive to them,” says Savio.
According to Wissam Khoury, Managing Director, Middle East and Africa, Finastra,“Established players, as well as new challengers, will accelerate cloud adoption, which provides impressive benefits of cost, scale and speed. Established banks will improve automation in their core infrastructures whilst inventing new customer journeys directly in the cloud with a two-speed innovation approach. New digital challenger banks, meanwhile, can become operational within months, capturing market share quickly – all enabled through cloud.”
Ask The Experts
While the banks and finance institutes are stepping up the game with increased digitization and automation, the BFSI institutions are also making sure that they are not lagging behind in keeping the users up to date. The Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS), a regional leader in banking and finance education and training, has launched a state-of-the-art online research portal that will enable region’s bankers, finance professionals as well as students, faculty and researchers to access the latest industry and economic reports and whitepapers, scholarly articles and surveys and support them in their training and education via the web. The EIBFS 2019 Annual Training Plan involves the launch of four mobile learning apps, one of which will be EIBFS Research. This app, containing all features of the research portal, will be available on the App Store and in the Android App Bundle on Google Play, catering to smartphone-savvy learners and supporting a seamless, scalable and interactive learning process. The first-of-its-kind in the Middle East to have the unique feature of ‘Ask an Expert’ as part of the portal and app offering, this innovative research platform will allow thousands of industry professionals across the region and beyond to clarify their query or doubt. Queries can be on any area of banking: from risk and compliance and banking technology and law to banking strategy, finance, accounting and control and products and operations management.
Artificial Intelligence is being used by several banks to leverage the customer experience. The launch of chatbots solution is further improving the communication between the bank and the customer, but sans the customer representative. AI based recommendations and advice are further helping customers go for the right suite of solutions. The cloud-based system of chatbots are also helping eradicating the need for expensive storage. Emirates NBD customers can now chat bank via WhatsApp as the bank introduces customised services via the WhatsApp Business Solution, a first in the region. Enhancing the bank’s award-winning suite of digital capabilities, Emirates NBD Chat Banking via WhatsApp, supported by Infobip, is an easy-to-use secure channel that allows customers to seamlessly carry out daily banking functions on the go. These functions include checking account balances, the last five transactions of account or credit cards, last credit card mini statement, temporarily blocking or unblocking cards, new cheque book requests, and foreign exchange rates.
“With digital assistants and chatbots helping automate front-end banking processes banks are gaining insight into customer behavior. Decisions will be driven by smart AI in the bank, front to back, across all channels. Those banks that drive intelligent insights will dominate as the race to customer-centricity continues. Expect to see more chatbots, recommendation engines and predictive services and, with Open Banking, even more such services being supplied by non-traditional firms,” says Wisam.
Sunil Paul, Co-founder and COO of Finesse says that AI-based chatbots entering the banking scene and Blockchain are ensuring a secure transaction management. “BSFI is opting for digital enhancements at every level. Another innovation impacting the BFSI are secure application programming interfaces (APIs). With this, consumers tend to have more security and control over their interactions with the service providers.” BFSI now has many facets to reach customers and provide services through modern day solutions. Technology has led to BFSI enterprises the leverage tomorrow’s technology and opt for mobility, Blockchain, and much more.
The Middle East’s banks are digitally transforming in order to deliver new services that can meet the needs of the increasingly Millennial customer base. This requires banks to change their business models into digital first – already we’re seeing the region’s leading banks cut down on branches and increase digital offerings.
Mashreq’s leadership pursued the company’s digitisation programme through a four-pillared strategy called ABCD (artificial intelligence, big data, cloud and modern devices) and committed itself to introduce each of these threads as part of the bank’s digital transformation. Security was also a central concern, and the bank worked with Microsoft’s team of experts to tailor systems that blended robust mitigation, detection and protection with the need to deliver personalised, convenient, easy-to-use digital services to customers.
Savitha Bhaskar, COO of Condo Protego says, “For banks to adopt emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, and blockchain, this should be a continuous process of digital transformation which requires both a digital transformation roadmap and digital skills training.”
By : Anushree Dixit