Reinventing financial transactions

RAKBANK stands apart from others by concocting with individual concepts for every emirate it is present in.' - Frederic de Melker, Managing Director, Personal Banking, RAKBANK
RAKBANK stands apart from others by concocting with individual concepts for every emirate it is present in." - Frederic de Melker, Managing Director, Personal Banking, RAKBANK

RAKBANK focuses on providing diversified solutions for both individuals and organisations. Excerpts from an interview with Frederic de Melker, Managing Director, Personal Banking, RAKBANK.

What makes Ras Al Khaimah an important destination for RAKBANK?
Ras Al Khaimah is in our name, which means the history and culture of the emirate is part of RAKBANK's DNA. Looking at our portfolio, 60 per cent of our business happens in Dubai, but that doesn't make Ras Al Khaimah any less important for us. As the emirates focuses strongly on industrial development, we support this growth with new capabilities, and are currently having a strong presence in the SME sector, which is reflected in our activities across the emirate. With the joining of CEO Peter England seven years ago, we started diversifying our business portfolio. On the retail side, our offerings are diverse and customised, and we are working on both conventional as well as Islamic banking, which opens up a lot of opportunities.
Does the bank offer special products or services for Individuals in Ras Al Khaimah?
RAKBANK holds one of the largest card portfolios in the country. Besides, partnering with Mastercard on exclusive offers, the bank's own MyRAK card holds a lot of benefits for customers in the emirate. In March 2020, exclusively for the Ras Al Khaimah customers, we will be revamping the payroll proposition, aimed at creating a synergy between both the employer and the employee. That is our one step forward for the local community.
On the remittance front, we have partnered with Ripple to leverage the former's global blockchain network to power cross border payments. As more and more expats are living and working in Ras Al Khaimah, remittance solutions play a big role and we have the right knowhow and solutions.
Thirdly, we will be launching a new cobranded card in March in the travel space that offers exceptional travel and lifestyle benefits.
Last year, RAKBANK also launched the RAKfoodie platform, offering dining offers at various locations, with many of these benefits in Ras Al Khaimah and that has been a hit among the users.
How are you building the brand in other emirates?
Each emirate in the UAE is different with a unique culture and personality, yet they have been successful in coming together and creating a global footprint in the last 49 years. So, in terms of brand positioning, we follow the same logic.
RAKBANK stands apart from others by concocting with individual concepts for every emirate it is present in. We put a lot of focus, and it is very important for us to build that loyalty on the customers' end. As we aim to be the local bank in the UAE, we want to position ourselves in Ras Al Khaimah as a fresh, new alternative for banking relationships. Therefore, in 2019, we reinvented ourselves in terms of marketing and creating awareness. The initiatives were ad hoc and driven by campaigns. From a retail point of view, RAKBANK does a lot of campaigns to keep customers engaged, as a more mass oriented brand. Keeping that strategy intact we are now moving more into mass affluent customers with higher salary brackets to reposition our brand from more than just a mass bank.
Here, initiatives with FC Barcelona, as well as being one of the founding partners of the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai, move our brand from who we are to what we want to be in the future. It is more of tactical marketing than simply broadcasting campaigns.
Customised campaign are our forte. For example, in Ras Al Khaimah, we support sports events as it is an adventure sports destination. This is how we stay connected within the community.
How did the association with FC Barcelona happen?
Everything started with transformation. On the retail side, RAKBANK is specifically focusing on mass banking. In order to move to other segments, we have to work on new offerings, creatively. One way is to look at co-branding opportunities.
To get into the mass affluent segment, you have to choose a brand that resonates with the various nationalities who reside in the UAE. FC Barcelona is the strongest brand in the UAE today. Another important factor for association is that the FC Barcelona is a member owned club, which makes it unique. We want to be perceived as a bank, not just for the customers, but also as one with the customers. This philosophy was important and led us to FC Barcelona. As partners, we are looking to be associated with them, while they want to grow their fan base and be certain that their overseas fans also enjoy certain benefits. We have the RAKBANK FC Barcelona Mastercard Platinum Credit Card that gives holders lots of benefits - encompassing merchandise and tickets to the games. This is a perfect example on how two organisations that do not have a lot in common can still work together to leverage their individual brands.
What has been RAKBANK's digital journey so far?
For RAKBANK, the last two years were very important. Supported by Mastercard, we have come up with digital solutions, such as the FC Barcelona Mastercard Prepaid Card that offers both a physical card and a virtual solution. We are currently piloting a third party distribution with Zoom supermarkets.
Banks may have been the middlemen for centuries but today, from a digital perspective, the physical relationship between a bank and its customer is fading away. We understand that the human interaction is very important and banks are still the tangible side of the financial system.
In our strategy, the bank network is still very important, especially in RAK, so as the customer relationship with brickand- mortar fades, we constantly envisage how can RAKBANK still be part of transactions and provide better service?
One of our initiatives on this philosophy is Skiply - an app that we launched in September mainly focusing on schools. This app makes it easier for parents to make payments online and even give consent to activities in schools that need payments. Also in order to download Skiply, you don't have to be a RAKBANK customer.
With the Coca-Cola Arena, we are working on an app where food from the arena can be delivered straight to the arena visitors. For us, this shows what RAKBANK can do digitally. Based on this ecosystem, the next step would be to include Coca-Cola Arena members if they want to buy merchandise, following by F&B, such coffee shops and fast food chains. So, we remain the middlemen from the acquiring side, then come up with digital services to help clients. This is how banks can reinvent themselves and still be part of the financial transactions.
In what ways does RAKBANK contribute to Ras Al Khaimah's development?
On the corporate side, we want to come up with solutions that help business development in the emirate. Tourism and hospitality is important in this area, however we also continue to support the more traditional areas such as mining, construction, cement, etc
Ras Al Khaimah is also an investment and business hub where people live and work. From our end this year, we want to roll out a debit card exclusively for RAK residents. Loyalty-based, the card will give the owner power to purchase and redeem points at local and international merchants and F&Bs. We are still working on it to bring merchants - both independent and franchisees - into that ecosystem. This will help embed everybody into the local community.
M&As are happening everywhere; how does RAKBANK react to this?
We are not fighting big banks in individual emirates. In Dubai, we are the bank of the masses; in Abu Dhabi, we are looking at wealth management solutions; and in RAK, we simply want to be the biggest bank. The best thing about RAKBANK is that we can play different roles in different emirates. We can increase our service footprint for SMEs, since we are the largest small business bank in the UAE, by not only giving a loan, but also giving them digital benefits. Last month, the launch of Simplify helped customers builda website in few minutes and start selling immediately. These initiatives are really boosting our chances of growth. We are helping our companies to survive, grow and stay ahead with our myriad of global mechanisms.
Lastly, RAKBANK generated profits close to Dh1,095.3 million in 2019. What do you attribute it to, from a retail perspective?
The year 2019 was a good one. We attribute this to a range of initiatives which the Bank has been taking since 2015, such as managing risk appetite through continual diversification of our business. From a retail banking perspective, we revamped the wealth management capability, revitalised our branch network and focused on becoming a much more customer-centric organisation, rather than one which is highly product focused. This has brought significant benefits to the Bank and to our clients by enabling us to provide products and services that meet all of our clients' needs and at the same time reduce the Bank's risk profile as compared to just focusing on stand-alone lending. Going forward we see an increasing focus on customer experience as being essential to long term sustainability of the Bank's performance, particularly in an increasingly digital age.

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