Dubai: The banking industry in the GCC is facing huge challenges in meeting the customer expectations in digital experience and delivering banking service over smart phones, according to the EY GCC Digital Banking Report 2015.

“Although many GCC countries like the UAE have some of the highest smart phone penetration in the world, our study finds that when it comes to use of smartphone for main banking interactions in the GCC is low,” Ashar Nazim, Partner, Global Islamic Banking Center at EY, told Gulf News.

According to the EY study only 14 per cent of customers banking interactions there are made on a smartphone.

The first ever study on customer expectations on digital experience in the banking industry and service delivery on smart phones comes at a time when a vast majority of banks across the region are grappling with the question of delivering the right kind of digital offerings to maximise customer experience and customer loyalty.

The study covered more than 2,000 customers across Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Kuwait and includes analysis of 700,000 sentiments on social networks; and discussions with 30 leading banks and 80 banking industry leaders.

“What we found from our discussions with customers across these six countries is that the customer satisfaction levels in smart phone based banking services and overall digital experience in banking services are very low,” said Nazim.


The study showed that only 50 per cent of customers using digital services are happy with the service offering while in the more than 55 per cent were unhappy. In Qatar and Saudi Arabia the level of unhappiness was 58 per cent and 60 per cent, respectively.

“Mobile banking has not fully taken off in the GCC. A large number of transactions are still made on home computers or ATMs, or through traditional channels involving human interaction, such as branches or call centres. Only a limited number of banking transactions are mobile,” said Paul Sommerin, Mena Financial Services Technology and Transformation Leader at EY.

The study’s result has come as a surprise given the extremely high number of banking customers that use smartphones across the GCC. Outside of the region, digital-only banks, which don’t have a branch network, have been rising in popularity due to their agility and lower cost base.

Customer requirements

Although many banks have been investing in digital and mobile service delivery platforms, the study showed in many cases the approach have been wrong or in many cases banks have been just copying technology solutions from other markets, without giving much thought to the customer requirements of specific markets.

“Our interaction with banking customers from the GCC showed that what customers are looking for are easy to use intuitive solutions that can assist them in financial decision making process. The bottom-line is simple that technology needs to be an enabler rather than an end in itself,” said Nazim.

Mobile-first is the future

It is not enough for banks to just introduce new digital channels. They must reinvent their customer processes to offer technology-enabled, simple, end-to-end banking experiences, according to the EY GCC Digital Banking Report 2015.

Well-developed digital channels create opportunities for banks to address this challenge as well as increase their share of wallet and expand their market share. The foundation of these opportunities is the data that digital channel transactions generate on customer behaviour, such as buying habits. This data, which is objective and gathered without human intervention, can show how customers behave throughout all channels.

With an improved understanding of their customers, banks can personalise the customer experience and recommend new products and services, both of which aid customer retention. Equipped with customer data that is generated in real-time banks are likely to find sophisticated but easy-to-use analytics tools to improve customer experience and to compete with global banks.

GCC banks lag in smartphone banking and digital customer experience