Mashreq Bank branch in Dubai Internet City 20190313
A view of the Mashreq Bank branch in Dubai Internet City Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

As consumers in the Gulf go digital, they are creating opportunities for innovative financial service providers to disrupt the market. Today, banks across the Gulf states are investing in digitising their operations and moving away from the traditional brick-and-mortar business model.

In the UAE, Mashreq is among the pioneers in the financial services industry to undertake digital transformation. In October 2017, the bank launched Mashreq Neo, the UAE’s first full-service digital bank,

Since its launch Neo has seen a significant jump in customer acquisition and customer engagement, according to Sridhar Iyer, Head of Mashreq Neo.

Mashreq Neo was launched in 2017. How has been the response so far?

The customer response for Neo in the  last one year, both in terms of scale and adoption, has been tremendous. This has encouraged us to further grow customer acquisition and design bespoke products and services such as instant loans, instant remittances and instant insurance. Customer acquisition has grown by more than 300 per cent in the last one year and their level of digital engagement with the bank has been one of the highest, if not the highest in the industry.

The customer response for Neo in the last one year, both in terms of scale and adoption, has been tremendous. This has encouraged us to further grow customer acquisition and design bespoke products and services such as instant loans, instant remittances and instant insurance.

- Sridhar Iyer, Head of Mashreq Neo

Why has engagement been so high?

At Mashreq Neo, we are very particular that experience across a customer’s life cycle is kept simple, intuitive and seamless. We have also ensured that all digital journeys are co-created with customers and their feedback and inputs are incorporated in the design. We must also bear in mind that Neo is a self-select product where the customer on his/her own volition has chosen Neo as his/her banking option as opposed to being sold a banking product. This, therefore motivates and encourages customers to engage more closely with the bank. Also, the launch of several new and compelling propositions like instant insurance, instant loans, Quick Remit and Mashreq Millionaire on Neo have resonated very well with our customers, leading to high levels of customer engagement.

Technology is changing customer expectations. How is Mashreq Neo supporting the emerging needs of customers?

You are right, technology in general and smartphones in particular are changing customer behaviour. Expectations from banks today are being fashioned and shaped by customer experiences in other industries. Customers today, not only expect their banks to be safe and secure, but also want them to be agile, intuitive and customer friendly, like some of the new age companies.

Smartphones are ubiquitous and have transformed consumer lifestyles. Mobile apps are now used in almost every sphere of life whether it is while booking tickets, hailing taxis, ordering groceries or other routine activities.

Neo is a proposition specifically designed for this new and exciting era — it offers consumers a comprehensive suite of banking products via a banking app, an intuitive and seamless customer journey and a compelling set of products and experiences. The overwhelming response to Neo is testimony to the fact that the proposition has resonated well with our customers in this rapidly changing environment.

How has Mashreq Neo evolved in terms of products and services?

Based on the success of Mashreq Neo, we launched NeoBiz, the first digital banking proposition in UAE, in September. NeoBiz offers customised and specifically tailored digital offerings for SMEs, including start-ups and young businesses in the country. Other key services include digital onboarding, transparent and simplified products, digital assistant and full transaction capability online.

Within the Mashreq Neo product suite, we have covered the entire range of banking services starting from current and saving accounts, online remittances to more complex products like equity trading, foreign currency investments and others.

The recent launches of instant insurance and Mashreq Millionaire on the Neo app has received tremendous response both in terms of scale and adoption. The instant and online personal loan is another marquee product that has resonated well with our customers.

How do you expect the banking ecosystem to grow?

Rapid developments in technology and evolving customer behaviour will play a huge role in influencing and shaping the financial ecosystem. Advancements in new technologies like AI, big data and cloud will not just open doors to new opportunities, but will dramatically reduce cost of computing and data storage. This will allow and encourage financial institutions to adopt newer and more customer friendly ways of banking whether it is during customer onboarding, authentication, service or digital engagement.

Collaboration among stakeholders will also be key in building and growing this ecosystem. These collaborations will not be restricted to partnerships between financial institutions and fintechs alone, but will expand to include government bodies, large e-commerce merchants, tech companies and others. In short, an exciting era lies ahead for bankers and customers alike driven primarily by rapid advancements in technology. The age of digital banking has well and truly arrived.