A branch of National Bank of Fujairah in Dubai
A branch of National Bank of Fujairah in Dubai. The bank witnessed strong growth in interest income supported by loan growth and the interest rate increase last year. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Corporate banking remains a tough business with lenders across the world facing challenging circumstances, rising regulatory costs and increased capital requirements.

The UAE is no different. With more than 40 banks operating in the market, these financial institutions – which service companies, as opposed to individuals – must find new ways of differentiating themselves. So how can they stand out? And what will the winning bank of the future look like?

Corporate banks have traditionally been slower than their retail counterparts to adopt new technologies and processes. That is now changing as more banks realise they must adapt in order to cater to their clients’ requirements.

Vikram Pradhan on banking Image Credit: SUPPLIED

Specialisation is the future

For banks to maintain their edge and stay ahead of the game, specialisation is key. Corporate banks can no longer offer a bit of everything. Each business segment comes with its own set of opportunities and challenges, so it is important to specialise in order to offer customers more value.

At National Bank of Fujairah (NBF), we have 12 industry-focused business segments offering bespoke and customised solutions for our customers.

Specialisation helps relationship managers to gain a better understanding of a customer’s business and banking requirements in order to offer unique solutions.

Partnership is key

In a shifting economy that is constantly undergoing fluctuations, it is important for banks to reinforce their position as resilient partners that are committed to standing by their clients not by just offering sound financial advice, but expert counsel to help drive their business forward.

By placing clients at the forefront of everything we do, NBF always listen carefully to their needs and provide expert-led advice accordingly. One of the ways that we have showcased this partnership-first mindset is through the NBF Knowledge Series, our annual knowledge-exchange sessions where industry experts share in-depth market insights. These sessions have been instrumental in helping clients navigate through the challenging macroeconomic environment.

In 2017, in an effort to grow and expand the SME sector, we explored new corridors and collaborated with Thomson Reuters to become the exclusive platinum banking partner for ‘Accelerate SME’, an online platform which provides an ecosystem for SMEs in the UAE, and offers invaluable advice for business owners and entrepreneurs. Earlier this year, we joined forces with Emirates Development Bank to launch the 'SME Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme', a financial solution that is designed to alleviate one of the key challenges faced by SMEs and improve their access to financing.

Going digital

As technology evolves, customers’ expectations of how they interact with the bank is changing. To meet their demands, digitisation is another critically important area for corporate banks. The effects of digitisation are far-reaching, affecting everything from how a bank interacts with its customers, to the way it processes things in the backend, and how it complies with the regulator. Banks that digitise efficiently and quickly will probably be the ones that will be able to outperform.

NBF has invested in state-of-the-art technology in order to provide improved turnaround time for customer transactions, better quality of services, minimisation of physical documentation, increased customer convenience, and more timely responses and resolution of any complaints.

Data mining

Finally, one of most essential ingredients to understanding customer needs and behaviour is data. Data analytics and robotics are among the key digital initiatives we have been implementing to maximise efficiency and enhance the overall customer experience. Listening and understanding our customers sits at the forefront of all our operations and we always capitalise on our cross-sectorial approach to continue harnessing the best solutions to our customers.

The writer is the Head of Corporate and Institutional Banking at National Bank of Fujairah.