The digital revolution is turning global industries upside down and has reached the banking sector. People now embrace fully integrated banking experiences, using smartphones, tablets and wearables to do everything from buying products online, opening new accounts and making payments.

McKinsey’s latest research reveals that at least 80 per cent of urban consumers in the UAE now prefer to do a portion of their banking through digital channels.

The new digital banking experience is about agility, mobility, connectivity, efficiency and data

Banks in the UAE have announced digital banking initiatives, ranging from separate digital-only banking platforms to strengthening of existing mobile banking services, rationalizing branch networks, and refocusing staff on value-added services.

New battlefield

As the battle hots up, experts say the new digital banking experience is about agility, mobility, connectivity, efficiency and data.

“Most of our clients, whether corporate or individual, are demanding banking services anytime, anywhere, in the most efficient and user-friendly manner. Coping up with this demand is a must for any bank,” says Ahmed Abdelaal, Head of Corporate & Investment Banking Group, Mashreq (right).

Traditionally, banks have spent most of their efforts on transaction execution, a smaller part of the whole customer journey. Today they can borrow a page from industries that greatly value customer experience such as retailers, say experts.

“The customer is the boss. The explosion of social media means brands reputation [can be] built or destroyed in minutes. Brands also face stiffer competition as consumers now have access to the global marketplace,” Rajesh Garg, Group Chief Financial Officer of Dubai-based retail conglomerate Landmark Group.

Client experience

As consumers seek speed and convenience, it is not enough for banks to woo them with nice-looking apps. The single differentiator that will set the winners apart in the new era will be customer experience.

To achieve this, banks will have to go the omnichannel route, where customers choose the channel according to their convenience, but quality of interaction and ease of operations must remain the same, says Abdelaal.

As consumers seek speed and convenience, it is not enough for banks to woo them with nice-looking apps

Mashreq has been cognizant of this changing landscape in which customer experience is top priority. “We are driven by two factors – first, ensuring a positive client experience and second, being ahead of the curve as far as what the client’s needs are. We want to help them save time, make more money and ensure that they can execute transactions on the move,” says Abdelaal.

Omnichannel route

Mashreq has been investing heavily to seamlessly integrate banking channels to combine interaction across all customer touch points. This helps the bank to cater to the individual needs of each client, by leveraging not only its multiple products and solutions across verticals, but also leveraging its global and regional presence to bring unmatched value to the client, says Abdelaal.

The strategy has worked for Landmark Group, one of Mashreq’s corporate clients.

“Banks need to rise to the challenge by being proactive in adopting technology and consumer experience, which Mashreq has done. In our experience of working with them we have progressed very well with them and expanded our relationship, leveraging their strength in other GCC and MENA regions, and above all opening up our retail stores for them to onboard technology projects to improve consumer experience of omnichannel payments,” says Garg.

Big Data

A key ingredient to provide omnichannel banking is using the data banks have about customer interactions.

“Data is the next big thing. Everyone is thinking right now, how can we data-mine the amount of information we have and put this to a good use not only for the bank, but also for our clients,” says Abdelaal.

A key ingredient of omnichannel banking is using the data banks have about customer interactions

Every time a customer interacts with a bank through any channel, there is an opportunity to capture customer preferences, behaviours and decisions. All the touchpoints of the bank generate data that provide useful information about customers.

“It is about looking at the information trail that the client leaves you. Every time they go to a branch of ours, every time they speak to one of our operators, every time they log into one of our e-portal, they leave a trail that tells us clearly what they want, the way they want it and when they want it and how,” says Abdelaal.

Personalised offers

For Mashreq, omnichannel means better customer knowledge and visibility. “Personalised experience for each client using the big data that we have and making sure there is a clear overlap between every channel that we offer – whether it’s on the retail front, corporate front, or on the regional and global front.  We have been very good at doing that,” says Abdelaal.

Investments in advanced analytics is helping Mashreq transform data into actionable insight for personalised engagement.

“All we need to do is data mine this wealth of information that a client leaves whenever he interacts with us, package it and sell it back in a way that provide them with unmatched experience and Mashreq has been pretty good at doing that.”

“If we are able to do that, our mission is accomplished.”

Agility and mobility

As the UAE aspires to become one of the smartest economies in the world, a digital revolution is critical for changing the ways in which we work and play. This is especially true for the banking sector, where people have begun to demand fast, convenient and secure applications that simplify banking.

“For us, at Mashreq, agility, mobility and our response rate to the changing needs of our client is crucial. We are digitising our offerings for a very simple reason – it is a mean to an end, which is to enhance our customer experience and provide better service, and do more business with them,” says Abdelaal.