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Today customers expect easy-to-use and straightforward digital experiences from their banks Image Credit: Shutterstock

A new breed of customers – called the connected generation – are changing the way banks do business. Not bound by age, they use a wide range of connected devices, and expect a range of services, on their phones or tablets – all at the click of a button while being on the move.

“We are now living in an economy of experience,” says Devid Jegerson, Head of Customer Experience and Platform Development, National Bank of Fujairah.

Jegerson says the Gafas – the Googles, the Amazons, and Facebooks of this world – are driving this economy-of-experience trend, where people judge everything by the quality and speed of their experience.

“Banks that hope to prevail in this new experiential economy must pursue digital simplicity,” he says. “They must invest in digital capabilities that radically simplify their businesses, while dramatically improving the customer experience.”

Digital innovators such Airbnb and Uber have raised the bar for consumer expectations regarding service, speed and convenience, and have created the expectation that banks will interact seamlessly with customers through digital channels while offering human interaction at moments that matter, according to the Global Retail Banking: Banking on Digital Simplicity report by Boston Consulting Group.

“Technology right now is out there and changing very rapidly,” Saeeda Jaffar, Managing Director of Alvarez and Marsal, Middle East told Gulf News in an earlier interview. “Whichever banks or financial institutions figure out how to utilise it best will probably be the ones that end up capturing a bigger share of the market. There is something that we often say in banking, which holds true - disrupt, or be disrupted.”

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People judge everything by the quality and speed of their experience Image Credit: Shutterstock

Innovation is key

Harnessing technology to drive innovation is a key area of importance for NBF, says Jegerson. “Our aim is to harness new technology to re-invent customer’s experience, simplify and streamline internal processes. This helps us to enable meaningful interactions for customers by providing information and supporting their decision-making at the right time, in the right place and in the right manner.”

At the end of October, the National Bank of Fujairah (NBF) announced that it is building a dedicated banking platform co-created with the small and medium enterprises (SME) in the UAE that will provide business owners access to comprehensive financial and business services and solutions.

Fintech partnership

As the finance industry grapples with what the next generation of banks and payment systems will look like, it’s clear that partnerships with the fintechs are key. In 2019, NBF partnered with the largest fintech hubs and financial technology crowdsourcing platforms. It also participated in the MENA Fintech hackathon, which was hosted by Fintech Galaxy, proposing challenges to fintech teams for solving business problems and create new ideas. The event brought together major local banks, regulators, financial industry professionals, and leading tech firms to assess and develop solutions for the region’s fintech sector.

Banks that hope to prevail in this new experiential economy must pursue digital simplicity. They must invest in digital capabilities that radically simplify their businesses, while dramatically improving the customer experience.

- Devid Jegerson, Head of Customer Experience and Platform Development, National Bank of Fujairah

NBF also conducted startups speed dating in liaison with its partner Fintech Hive in November. About 35 startups which included fintechs, regtechs and Islamic techs speed dated at Fintech Hive DIFC for two days. Later 22 shortlisted startups showcased their products with NBF.

"At NBF, we continue to seize forward-thinking partnerships and opportunities with fintechs that support our aim to ensure our banking platforms respond to our customers’ evolving personal and business needs,” says Jegerson.

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As consumers seek speed and convenience, it is not enough for banks to woo them with nice-looking apps Image Credit: Shutterstock

Harnessing data

As consumers seek speed and convenience, it is not enough for banks to woo them with nice-looking apps. The single differentiator that will set the winners apart in the new era will be customer experience. To achieve this, banks will have to go the omnichannel route, where customers choose the channel according to their convenience, but quality of interaction and ease of operations must remain the same. A key ingredient to provide omnichannel banking is using the data banks have about customer interactions.

“Data is the next big thing. It is about looking at the information trail that the client leaves you,” says Jegerson. "Every time a customer interacts with a bank through any channel, there is an opportunity to capture preferences, behaviors and decisions. Banks should listen and analyse this data so as to act on these needs and preferences."

Blockchain technology

Blockchain technology, digital banking applications as well as Robotics Process Automation (RPA) have also been focal points in NBF’s digital strategy, according to Jegerson. In April 2018, the UAE Government launched the Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021. The strategy aims to capitalise on the blockchain technology to transform 50 per cent of government transactions into the blockchain platform by 2021.

With regards to digital banking applications and services, NBF will be among the first few national banks to go live with Emirates Digital Wallet ‘Klip’, which is expected to introduce a society-wide transformation towards a cashless future. It will enable person-to-person payments via mobile phones and eliminate 60-70 per cent cash in circulation, according to estimates by the UAE Central Bank.

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A key ingredient to provide omnichannel banking is using the data banks have about customer interactions Image Credit: Shutterstock

Mitigating threats

As banks cater to customers’ increasing expectations of an enhanced online experience, online risks have risen. As consumers are predominantly looking for convenience and efficiency, they are also seeking safe and secure channels for all their digital transactions.

“NBF has implemented a risk-based Intelligent Adaptive Authentication system that applies a precise level of security for each unique customer interaction,” says Jegerson. “This system offers a truly friction-appropriate approach which ensures the best possible user experience,” he adds.