181201 Sridhar Iyer
Sridhar Iyer Image Credit: Supplied

Mashreq Neo, the UAE’s first full-service digital bank, has seen a significant jump in customer acquisitions, according to a senior executive at the bank.

“In the past six months we’ve grown rapidly. We now acquire almost four times the number of customers than what we did during the initial months of launch,” said Sridhar Iyer, Head of Mashreq Neo, in an exclusive interview with Gulf News. “We have also seen an exponential rise in customers transacting on the platform.” Mashreq Neo launched in October, 2017. The bank has reported a 300 per cent growth in new customers, albeit from a small base.

Today, digital bank sees more customer growth than all the physical channels at Mashreq Bank put together.

“The response so far from customers has been extremely encouraging and this has helped us tailor functionalities and offer user experiences that is most suited to our customers’ needs,” he said.

Digital will be mainstream

Iyer says there is a fundamental shift underway in the industry with digital banks expected to become mainstream in the future.

“If you look at the way customers are interacting — they are using mobile apps to order groceries, hail cabs and do a variety of other day-to-day activities. And there’s no reason to believe that they will not do the same for banking as long as it is simple quick and secure,” he says. “This is the way of the future where digital banks will become mainstream in the next two to three years.”

The UAE’s leading banks have launched digital-first or digital-only banking platforms for customers.

If you look at the way customers are interacting — they are using mobile apps to order groceries, hail cabs and do a variety of other day-to-day activities.

- Sridhar Iyer, Head of Mashreq Neo

Iyer says the bank has several standout features that have the ability to differentiate it from its competitors.

“Through Neo, customers can use a variety of investment tools, including stock and forex trading. People use Neo for transfers and cross-border services, which are part of their transactions. Soon we will be having loans and insurance products as well,” he said.

Traditional branches

As digital banking transactions overtake branch transactions in the UAE, what is the future of traditional bank branches?

“Traditional banking channels like branches will exist, and will complement digital banks and channels,” Iyer said. “However, the form and shape of branches will undergo a change. I believe they will be transformed to serve customer needs in the local neighbourhoods they serve. Depending on the neighbourhood they serve, branches may be kiosk-based banking, medium-sized branches or comprehensive smart branches offering a full range of services.”

Personalised journeys

As customers’ expectations of how they interact with the bank change, creating personalised experiences is something that will differentiate the winners from the laggards in the future, Iyer said. Banks have long had more consumer data available to them than businesses in most other sectors.

“Today, we have an understanding of what our customers want and where they’re coming from.”