In an exclusive interview with The Zone, Suvo Sarkar, Senior Executive Vice President and Group Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management at Emirates NBD, spoke about the future of banking, the challenges digital banking faces in the region and how the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation. He also highlighted Emirates NBD’s Liv., the first lifestyle banking app that works around what you like and how you spend your time, as well as the bank’s support to SMEs that form the backbone of the UAE economy.
What do you think has the potential to be the next big thing in digital banking?
Digitisation continues to be a top priority as banks continue to transform their platforms and architecture to deliver instant and straight through customer experiences. Micro-personalisation driven by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data will become key, and credit decisioning will continue to strengthen, supported by enhanced scoring models. Interoperability of platforms will assume increased focus in order to enable banks to participate in platforms and eco-systems and to compete with new players effectively. On the technology side, areas such as biometrics, cyber security, cloud computing, process automation tools, chatbots and data analytics will be in focus so as to help banks deliver value-added products and services. We are also seeing the emergence of exciting new concepts such as metaverse, virtual reality and crypto currencies that will be interesting domains for banks to explore.
Could you highlight the key factors responsible for Liv.’s success among millennial customers?
Launched in 2017, Liv. is a digital lifestyle bank that continues to be the fastest grow- ing retail bank in the UAE, with over 500,000 customers currently. Liv. was conceived and built as a lifestyle-based digital-only bank for millennials. Instead of digitising existing products, we built a digitally native bank that is all about making banking simple, accessible and affordable for all. Liv. enables customers to keep track of their daily activities as well as finances, all in one app. Customers can open a new account instantly, set up savings goals, send money using social media channels and obtain 24X7 service support through a chatbot. A customer can apply to obtain an instant digital credit card as well as a personal loan. We continue to work on enhancing our customer proposition through personalisation, leveraging technological innovations, and financial education.
What are some of the biggest challenges of digital banking in this region?
Most banks and financial institutions are saddled with legacy operating systems and infrastructure. While transformation plans are underway, this will require sustained investments to ensure they are able to keep pace with evolving market needs. With the growth of digital banking, cyber-crime and social engineering present ever-growing threats, and the onus lies on banks to ensure enhanced protection as well as educate customers on how to safeguard themselves against fraudsters.
Barring the GCC, financial inclusion is still low in the Middle East markets; requiring banks to introduce digital solutions that can effectively cater to this customer segment. Also, collaboration between banks and fintechs needs to improve to help deliver better and state-of-the-art solutions to customers.
How is Emirates NBD Group contributing to Expo 2020 Dubai?
Emirates NBD is a Premier Partner and the Official Banking Partner of Expo 2020 Du- bai. Supporting the global exhibition’s theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ and its subthemes: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, we have opened a Future Banking space at Expo 2020 Dubai, comprising different pods housing immersive, interactive, and engaging exhibits that shine light on the role that banks will play in fulfilling customers’ future needs, aspirations and goals. The innovative and futuristic concept-driven exhibits enable millions of visitors from across the globe to experience different virtual personas and learn about cutting-edge banking initiatives that aim to address future challenges. To power the visitors’ experience, the space is flanked by full-fledged branches of Emirates NBD and Emirates Islamic, offering a suite of services spanning personal, SME, corporate banking and trade finance. In keeping with the bank’s commitment to inclusion and supporting People of Determination, the branches are disability-friendly, equipped with accessibility features such as tactile floor indicators, ramps with rails, Braille signage, low height teller desks and ATMs and accessible doors. Assistive technologies include a hearing loop and an audio enabled tactile map for the visually impaired.
Emirates NBD has also joined hands with global payments and technology leader Mastercard to create the Emirates NBD Expo 2020 Prepaid Card, a digital-first product issued via a dedicated mobile app, Joyn, from Emirates NBD. The product, aimed at both UAE residents and international visitors, offers a strong value proposition to customers, including the ability to make payments in UAE Dirhams, especially relevant for international visitors as well as adding the card to their preferred digital wallet (Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay) for making contactless payments, with an option to get a linked physical card if needed. The card provides access to privileges, deals and discounts of up to 50 percent at more than 2,000 shopping, dining, wellness, and entertainment touchpoints, as well as access to exclusive Expo-related offers. As a leading local bank, Emirates NBD Group is committed to championing small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that form the backbone of the UAE economy. In line with our shared commitment with Expo 2020 Dubai to support small businesses and start-ups, we have launched customised packages to help companies leverage the opportunities presented by this mega event.