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Mashreq CEO says bank will become 'branchless'

New technology and automation could cause job redundancies of 80%

Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO Mashreq bank addressing media at the 50th anniversary celebration of the bank.
Gulf News

Mashreq is set to become a “branchless bank,” according to CEO Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, who was speaking at the banks 50th anniversary ceremony.

In his effort to make Mashreq the “most progressive bank” in the region over the course of the next 50 years, Al Ghurair said that there would be a significant uptake in new technologies, and often these would replace roles currently occupied by human beings.

“Machines will start replacing a lot of processes, and jobs,” he said, adding: “In fact, we have eliminated simple work that we used to do. The future for employees is not in repetitive work.”

According to Al Ghurair, generally a bank is structured with 20 per cent of staff interacting with customers, whilst 80 per cent “of our employees are sitting in the back. You never see them, but they are fulfilling these processes.”

“This 80 per cent will be eliminated from the bank by use of technology,” he said.

Large British bank Lloyds axed 3,000 jobs in July 2016 following a 15 per cent fall in the use of its branches, as customers opt to arrange their finances digitally.

According to former Barclays CEO Antony Jenkins, pressure from the technology industry “will compel banks to significantly automate their business,” leading to a decline in staff and branches of “as much as 50 per cent” in the coming years.

In a move that appears to anticipate this trend eventually arriving in the UAE, Ghurair announced that Mashreq would soon be launching what he called “a bank without branches.”

“There will be absolutely no need for you to visit a branch. You will be able to avail all of our services without the need to actually visit us,” he said.

Ghurair said he was not sure that there would be a role bank branches in the future, noting that even new customers would not need to visit a branch.

When asked by Gulf News for the initiative’s launch date, a spokesman for Mashreq declined to say whether it would happen in 2017, but did say that there would be a press conference to make the announcement official after Ramadan.

“In the future, 95 per cent of transactions will take place outside of the branch,” Al Ghurair said.

The CEO contended that this kind of bank did not exist today, calling it “a bank without boundaries.”

Addressing members of the media at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mashreq, Ghurair spoke about a broad range of issues, including the possibility for future mergers and acquisitions.

On April 1, 2017, the merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi and First Gulf Bank was legally completed, creating First Abu Dhabi Bank, with approximately $186 billion of assets. Many analysts predict further consolidations in an overcrowded market.

“Everything is possible,” Al Ghurair said in response to a question about future mergers and acquisitions.

“The UAE is a dynamic place, and you should expect anything and everything,” he added.