Mahsreq Neo
Sridhar Iyer, Head of Mashreq Neo Image Credit: Supplied

Mashreq launched its fully digital bank, Neo, in 2017. Its head, Sridhar Iyer says that there were three important reasons behind the decision. Firstly, he points to the fact that the UAE has one of the highest penetrations of smartphone and internet in the world. In addition he says that the country’s residents are very comfortable and familiar with digital .

“If you look at the population of the UAE, more than 80 per cent are expats. They tend to be in regular touch with their friends and families abroad through a range of social media platforms such as Whatsapp and BOTIM .”

The digital infrastructure in this country is advanced and is amongst the best in the world.

- Sridhar Iyer, Head of Mashreq Neo

And finally, Iyer says that the UAE’s advanced infrastructure has created an environment that is very conducive to a digital bank.

“The digital infrastructure in this country is advanced and is amongst the best in the world. For example, the ability to carry out eKYC i.e. to authenticate customers using biometrics rather than paper based verification, is a feature that very few countries possess.

While the majority of Mashreq Neo’s customers are between the ages of 25 and 40, Iyer says that Neo would suit anyone who is digitally savvy. Today, Neo accounts for 75 per cent of new customers that join Mashreq. He also says that digital banking is a customer-led trend in the market.

“It is worth highlighting that the digitisation of the economy is being led by the citizens. In the past, it was usually the case that an industry would create a trend and that customers would follow it. For e.g. with the introduction of ATMs , the banking industry created a trend that customers adapted to. However, in the case of smartphones and digital usage, customers are leading the trend and the banking industry is keeping pace with customer expectations.”

“These days, most of our daily tasks are fulfilled through our smartphones, whether it be booking a cab or ordering groceries. Therefore, it’s only logical that the same applies to banking” he says.

“In the past, customers’ expectations of banking were shaped by the service that they received from their banking providers, which often led to them to compare one bank against another. However, customers’ expectations of banks today is shaped by their experiences in other industries. For example, customers expect the onboarding process in banks to be as seamless and as intuitive as some of the leading e-commerce merchants, while maintaining high standards of security and confidentiality. Banks need to keep pace with what customers want us to do.”

Growing the digital economy

In August, the UAE government announced that it aims to double the size of its digital economy and Iyer says that Mashreq Neo reflects this vision. “Neo supports the nation’s digital vision fully. We are a completely digital bank and our customers are acquired, engaged and serviced predominantly on the Neo mobile app.” In fact, since the Covid-19 pandemic, Iyer says that customers’ use of cash has fallen by over30 per cent.

With the growth in cashless transactions, Iyer says that Mashreq Neo is continuously developing propositions that offer customers the best possible experience. “Digital is often defined as the automation of existing processes. I think that is an incorrect definition. Digital is about redefining banking journeys for customers and using technology to automate them to offer a superior and a remarkable experience”

“There is a need to constantly keep in touch with customers to understand how their expectations change and evolve. In order to accomplish this, we have co-created several financial journeys by partnering with our customers to design what is best suited for them.”

“Banks need to keep pace with what customers expect us to do. The vision for Neo is to be “more than just a bank”. We aspire to be a bank that offers superior experiences that are aligned to customer lifestyles and actively support their goal of achieving financial prosperity and well-being.

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