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Mashreq: 'Our approach is solution-driven'

Mashreq: Our approach is solution-driven
Subroto Som, Executive Vice President Group Head of Retail Banking Group, Mashreq Bank

With many firsts in its pocket, Subroto Som, Executive Vice President - Group Head of Retail Banking Group, Mashreq Bank, explains how Mashreq Bank leverages digitalisation for seamless customer experience. Excerpts from the interview:



Published: Tue 3 Sep 2019, 10:08 AM

How has digital banking transformed the banking industry?

Digital banking is the future of the banking landscape. Today, we live in a world where the Internet and mobility go hand in hand, and customers are increasingly adapting as well as adopting digital-only solutions to meet their needs. Digital, therefore, has a crucial role to play in the short-term, especially with all banks going through rapid transformation.

In the financial space, in particular, the demand for services such as mobile banking solutions are no longer optional - and the customer experience has become paramount, so that they can make the transactions they need quickly and conveniently.

Due to this growing appetite, there are more 'Digital Only Banks' being launched around the world, as well as in the UAE market (for example Mashreq Neo, the UAE's first fully fledged digital bank), which are promoting financial Inclusion while providing innovative, convenient and real-time solutions to the customer's doorstep. The main benefit of such banks is that every transaction, from account openings to fund transfers and fulfillment, can be done online. Consequently, there is no need for customers to visit physical branches, thus making their life much easier.

By providing innovation to customers, banks have also realised that they cannot do everything alone to meet the needs of their customers. Hence, more and more institutions are partnering with each other to provide comprehensive solutions, or introduce new services and offerings. For banks, these partnerships can be with technology companies in the FinTech space, non-bank entities, or other e-commerce players - which can help to improve efficiency, reduce risk and enhance the customer experience. It is notable that most FinTechs have concentrated on providing offerings geared towards the retail banking space, and provide solutions in payments, wealth management, credit underwriting, and KYC (know your customer).

Is online banking and digital banking same?

Digital Banking is more 'mobile' than online banking - and includes a variety of solutions such as Online Banking, Mobile Banking, SMS Banking, WhatsApp Banking, Chatbots, Voice Banking Services using Siri, Social Media, etc. It exists so that customers can get solutions to their needs instantly and have enhance convenience.

We have seen a significant shift in consumer habits with numerous customers shifting to online and mobile banking channels. We are leveraging mobile innovation to introduce digital products and services that provide seamless, convenient, secure and cost effective banking solutions, compared to traditional branch banking.
Mashreq Neo is a good example of this vision. It is the first digital bank in the GCC where customers can apply for credit cards, open foreign currency accounts, make investment transactions, and buy virtual commodities including gold, all from their mobile phones.  No other digital bank in the country can currently boast these capabilities.

We also continue to lead the way in encouraging the adoption of digital payments in the UAE and beyond.  We were the first bank to introduce Alipay in the region and were among the first to embrace both Apple Pay and Samsung Pay when they were launched in the UAE.

Due to the growth of cashless payments, we continue to partner with Alipay services to carry out payments at merchant outlets in the UAE, using Alipay digital wallets on smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, we introduced MasterPass QR payments on SNAPP as well as recently adding instant investment capabilities to this solution. Our own digital wallet, Mashreq Pay, also allows our customers to simply tap and pay at retail outlets making their payment experience quick, easy and more secure.
 
How are chatbots redefining banking experience?

Chatbots are an increasingly important solution within the banking industry in today's world. The more sophisticated chatbots can leverage artificial intelligence to give customers an entire roadmap to the bank's products or offer solutions to a specific query. The biggest benefits that they provide is reducing costs through automation as well as facilitating easy, 24/7 digital support (without any queues or delays) to the customer. At Mashreq Bank, we continue to enhance the AI capabilities of our chatbots to provide smart solutions and services.

Does Mashreq see a shift from traditional to a digital model of working for shifting consumer pattern?

We have observed a remarkable shift in the expectations and banking habits of our customers. We have increased the share of automated transactions from 85 per cent three years ago to 92 per cent in 2018. This has significantly reduced the burden on branches and only three to four per cent of customers require branch-based personnel to assist. All branches are being introducing automation and this improves customer convenience and reduces costs.

Today, automated transactions across all the branches are as high as 97 per cent. Going forward, we will be growing the number of touch points across the UAE - by increasing the number of ATMs, ITMs, CCDMs, and cash dispensing machines and other digital touch points.

Consumer habits have changed and continue to change at a fast pace; and there is a large and growing appetite for digital services. The demand for services such as mobile banking are no longer limited to time and space - and the embedded and real-time customer experience has become paramount.

We also continue to invest heavily in data analytics, AI and are using robotics to automate a lot of operating procedures, manual entries and activities that are repetitive in nature. We also continue to work on a number of initiatives in the payments space.

For example, we launched MasterPass QR payments on SNAPP as well as added instant investment capabilities. Our own digital wallet, Mashreq Pay, also allows our customers to simply tap and pay at retail outlets making their payment experience quick, easy and more secure

On the business side of things, how do you think digitalisation will change the face of banking? How is it reflecting on daily operations and lifestyle?

Changes in technology, regulation and customer expectations are among a multitude of factors, which are affecting the way in which all retail banks, including us, need to operate. The retail banking space in particular is going through a lot of disruption and digitalisation will play a big part in the change. We are witnessing a significant change where banking services are getting more and more embedded in a customer's daily lifestyle and new services are being introduced to complement their evolving needs.

Over time, we strongly believe that banks will not just be competing with banks; but also other entities in the technology space, which means that banks have to be ready for it.

There is a large opportunity to provide scalable robust and low-cost technology solutions to customers and increase the adoption of financial services through digital services. In order to prevail, banks have to offer solutions that are efficient, of good quality, can be delivered quickly; through an improved customer experience and enhanced digital capabilities.

At Mashreq for example, our approach is solution-driven, and we want to improve the customer experience for our customers and ensure that they are getting the best possible service when they need it, wherever they are. To achieve this, we have invested a significant amount of effort and resources to ensure that all our key products are designed with the sole intention of improving the customer journey and available digitally on their preferred devices.


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