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Blog: All About The Experience: The Future of Consumer Banking in the Middle East

February 22, 2017  |  HABIB HANNA

The Middle East banking landscape is witnessing a great shift in consumer demographics that is changing consumer demands. A transactional relationship is no longer enough for most consumers; they want to be known by their financial institution. This means they are looking for a seamless experience that blends branch, web, mobile and social media touchpoints. What does this shift mean for banks? It means banks must rethink their strategies to reach and retain customers.

Today, the challenge is less about how to update a branch or implement mobile banking and is more about how to deliver the right consumer experience – when and where customers want it. We’re helping financial institutions shift the way they think about the entire consumer journey to empower “experience-driven banking.” Experience-driven banking offers a much more holistic approach to connecting with consumers. It moves past the branch or the smartphone and focuses on the sum of a consumer’s engagement with a financial institution—regardless of their interaction method.

In this two-part series, we’re providing insightful perspective on the banking landscape in the Middle East and solving some of the most pressing challenges for banks in the region.

Shifting Consumer Landscape
Over the past twenty years, the population in the Middle East has doubled, with 40% of the population being under 25 years old. The Gulf region is also amongst the highest in the world for smartphone penetration, with the United Arab Emirates reaching 78% smartphone penetration. In the next 25 years the Middle East population is expected to increase by 50%, which is slower than in Africa, but faster than in India.

Digital Natives Driving Change
This increase of young people, coined “digital natives,” is a generation born and raised in the digital world, making them accustomed to the concept of personalization. From ringtones to avatars to mobile apps for taxi services and bill payments, digital natives are used to “having it their way” and expect to have choices in all aspects of their lives. They are comfortable relying on digital channels to make payments, order groceries, select insurance and visit the doctor (virtually, of course).  Digital touchpoints serve as an efficient tool that enables them to do what they want, where, when and how they want.

For banks to attract and retain these digital natives, digitalization and integration of channels and transactions to deliver true omnichannel consumer experiences is the way forward.

Top Three Digital Banking Trends
Now, that we’ve highlighted how consumers are changing in the Middle East, let’s take a look at the three major trends in the banking sector.

  • Digital onboarding: Banks in the region are already working on plans to create a digital onboarding process that includes new account openings, to better facilitate the user experience and reach new customers. We’re already working with banks in the region to support this initiative. Through automation technology, the consumer can carry out the onboarding process from start to finish with the ability to scan personal documents, such as their IDs, use biometrics, deposit cash and walk away instantly with their debit card and check book ready to conduct transactions on the spot.
  • Digital lending: Providing loans electronically from start to finish can simplify and personalize a consumer’s journey. By automating loan services through digital channels, banks can leverage data analytics to customize real-time offers to individual consumers. It can also allow consumers to more easily learn about and apply for offers by removing the complex processes, while also reducing bottom line costs.
  • Cardless transactions: Banks are more widely implementing cardless transactions via biometric or NFC technology for improved consumer security and convenience. Our latest collaborative innovation with
    Al Rajhi Bank enables customers to print and personalize their debit card in just over a minute, via biometric verification on a custom self-service terminal. This is a first-of-its kind service offered to customers in the Middle East.

These consumer landscape shifts and digital technology trends are colliding to create new opportunities for banks and consumers alike. One thing is for certain: if financial institutions want to succeed, they must embrace these changes and find new ways to deliver an even more personalized consumer experience.

By serving as consultants and collaborative partners, we help empower our financial institution customers on their transformation journeys. How can we help you personalize and seamlessly orchestrate your consumer touchpoints? Let’s start a conversation.

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