UAE and the region are ready for digital only banks
Dubai: Digital initiatives have been a key focus area for Emirates NBD’s service delivery much before digital transformation became a buzzword in the region’s financial services industry.
Even as the banking sector is busy figuring out a way to address the digital challenges posed by Fintech and disruptive banking technologies, Emirates NBD has committed Dh1 billion in investments for digital initiatives and the bank is taking a lead in digital innovations. This was reaffirmed by the bank winning the BAI global award for the Most Innovative Financial Services Organisation of the Year 2017.
“Our digitisation agenda has been going from strength to strength as we venture into new areas. We revamped our online platform with FaceBanking video banking, personalisation, insights on spending patterns and goal-based savings. We launched Emirates NBD Skyshopper, our foray into e-commerce, allowing customers to do online shopping across a range of categories with the convenience of a single check out,” said Suvo Sarkar, Senior Executive Vice-President, Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management.
The bank pioneered a voice-based virtual assistant, EVA, a first in the region for any call centre. It continues to invest heavily in digitisation. Earlier this year, the bank announced a Dh1 billion investment in digital transformation of their front- and back-end systems over the next three years. Clearly the bank has more innovations in the pipeline. “We will continue to digitise our sales and service processes, realign our development infrastructure as well as leverage the Fintech ecosystem to make the banking lives of our customers simpler, so watch this space!,” said Sarkar.
The concept of digital bank is catching up in the UAE with the launch of a few new initiatives including Emirates NBD’s digital bank, Liv., which was launched early this year. “We have been totally surprised and overwhelmed by its success! It is the first digital bank in the UAE built by and for the new generation. Millennials make up for over a quarter of the bankable population and Liv. has obviously addressed unmet needs for this rapidly growing segment,” said Sarkar. Last month, the bank acquired more customers through Liv. than it did through the mother bank, so in effect the bank has doubled its new customer acquisition.
Sarkar believes that the region is ready for digital-only banks. “With Liv., we have disrupted and re-imagined every single banking process, be it instant account opening, funds transfers via social media or gamification of loyalty points,” he said
The bank has plans to add new products and services with its focus on providing a cool and differentiated customer experience that focuses more on lifestyle than on banking. “We will leverage Liv. to drive youth banking and financial inclusion and I believe it will be a real game-changer,” Sarkar said.
As branch transactions drop and digital transactions accelerate, branch networks and formats in UAE are undergoing a significant transformation. Bankers have hinted that with the launch of new digital initiatives, there could be significant reduction in number of bank branches in the country.
“We will see lesser number of branches, smaller and more efficient formats, and larger areas for customer self-service. At Emirates NBD, given that only 7 per cent of our transactions are now face-to-face, and digital transactions are going up 30 per cent year on year, we are renovating our branches to make them more digitally enabled and more service focused,” said Sarkar.
The bank keeps realigning its network footprint on an ongoing basis in line with changing demographics and how the cities and communities are evolving: this year the bank will close three branches and reopen them at new locations including the latest in Dubai Design District. “We believe digital has to complement the physical. And high-touch has to complement high-tech. Which is why we are embarking on digital branches that have paperless banking delivered by friendly service ambassadors,” said Sarkar.
The first such branch is open at Dubai World Trade Centre. Last year, the bank pioneered a Branch of the Future where it showcased the future of retail finance. This futuristic banking space will be refreshed every year to reflect the latest innovations from across the world.