Mashreq Bank in Sharjah. 6th September 2022 Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: UAE’s Mashreq Bank is busy adding AI into its operations – AI of the ‘good’ kind.

An AI-enabled chatbot is on the way, to act as a virtual assistant to customers on their various banking tasks. The chatbot is undergoing a pilot program with about 500 customers of Mashreq.

‘Good AI’ is about helping customers deal with the vast amounts of information often needed in their banking requirements.

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“For us, it’s not only about transformation or digitization,” said Ahmed Abdelaal, Group CEO. “We are moving away from building products and services. Everything that we are building, if it doesn’t have any impact on CX (client experience) is not fit for purpose.”

According to a report by global management consulting firm McKinsey, AI has the potential to deliver real value in the GCC countries by as much as $150 billion.

Recently, Mashreq integrated the mobile money transfer service, Klip, into the app, and aso the bank’s Application Programming Interface (API) into the online marketplace noon. This allows customers to start shopping immediately after applying for a noon.com membership.

Ahmed Abdelaal, Group CEO of Mashreq Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Mashreq’s digital banking outfit Neo has also tied up with Federal Bank to facilitate rupee account opening for Indians in the UAE, making for a first of its kind. It also launched a first-ever bank-to-bank integrated digital journey for Mashreq Neo customers to open an NRI account.

The banking industry also recognize the value of AI in risk management, including compliance areas such as anti-money laundering, sanction screening, and credit default. “AI empowers decision-makers to effectively process and analyse massive amounts of information, enabling better decision-making,” said Fernando Morillo, Head of Retail Banking at Mashreq.

Wealth management in the end for a client is about being able to make some sense of the info. There it makes to use AI to crunch numbers and make some financial decisions the

- Fernando Morillo

Neo digital bank as standalone unit?

According to Mashreq’s retail banking chief, spinning Neo into a standalone entity is a potential option for the future. “The present is focusing on our clients,” he added.

Right now Neo is focused on a mass market that encompasses 90-95 per cent of the population, ‘but in the future, that bar can be raised’.

Mashreq – which is aiming for a license to operate in Saudi Arabia - aims to expand its customer base by integrating enabling technology into its existing banking operations and cast itself as a ‘banktech’. Or as Morillo says it, be ‘a fintech with a DNA of a bank’.