Mashreq Bank at Bur Dubai. The bank has a long history of embracing innovation and technology to remain ahead of the curve in the digital transformation of the region’s banking industry. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: Mashreq, the oldest bank in the UAE, is all set to take its digital transformation journey to the next level by extending the use of internet, mobile solutions, social media, artificial intelligence and robotics in all possible areas of banking functions. This was revealed by Subroto Som, Mashreq’s head of retail banking to Gulf News in an interview.

The bank has a long history of embracing innovation and technology to remain ahead of the curve in the digital transformation of the region’s banking industry. Mashreq is extending end-to-end digitisation starting from branches to customer service, back office operations and advisory functions.

Branches

The bank is one of the early adopters of electronic and automated channels in branch-based banking services. “We were seeing that the branch traffic was reducing, and lot of small value non-financial and financial transactions were getting done in the branches. Our approach was basically to route these transactions as much as possible through digital, electronic or automated channels,” said Som.

Subroto Som Image Credit: Supplied

Extensive use of new generation machines such as automated teller machines (ATMs), cheque deposit machines (CDMs), the Mashreq Online (MOL) and the bank’s mobile app SNAPP was successful in delivering a significant amount of services through digital and automated channels.

With the introduction of all these machines across branches, the bank has been able to increase the share of automated transactions from 85 per cent some three years ago to 92 per cent last year. Today, automated transactions across the branches are as high as 97 per cent.

“Such a massive shift in branch-based financial transactions to automated channels has reduced the burden on branches substantially. Now, only about 3 to 4 per cent of our customers need branch-based personnel to assist. We are migrating to automation across all our branches. This brings about customer convenience and helps us reduce costs,” Som said.

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Some of the branch-based customer services — such as updating of KYC [know your customer] inputs, changes in email id, phone number address, trade licence etc — are also are progressively moving to digital and automated channels. The bank used to do less than 10 per cent of such transactions on machines until last year. Currently, such machine-based transactions are at an average of 60 per cent.

Advisory services

Branch-based customer advisory and consultation is an area where the bank is currently enhancing digital migration. As a result, branch sizes are getting reduced and are getting more customised to suit the location’s requirements.

The bank is in the process of reformatting its branch network. While more than a dozen branches has been converted into the new format, a big one will be launched towards the end of this month at Muraqqabat.

Mashreq is also in the process of relocating some of its branches. “We are not looking to reduce the number of branches as of now. Right now, we are looking at relocation and resizing of branches,” said Som.

The reformatting of branches is expected to see a substantial reduction in the number of branch personnel. Along with the branch transformation, the bank is also changing the profile of the people in the branches. “We want to have more people who are consultants and sales people as opposed to operations and service staff,” Said Som.

“In this transformation journey with multiple moving parts and interdependencies, the only constant is our people who drive it. We are relentlessly working to make their development more about immersion, not instruction; about growing, not just learning; making them drivers of change, not causalities. And to do so and stay relevant, purpose has to be led and lived by our people,” said Ashfaq Bandey, vice president of HR at Mashreq.

Digital Inside

The transformation at Mashreq also covers back room operations through its ‘Digital Inside’ programme. “We are working on the use of a lot of use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, primarily focused on streamlining, automated and digitise the operational activities. Making these functions error free, seamlessly at a faster pace with a lower cost. It’s a long journey and we have made some good progress,” said Som.