Three Ways Middle East Digital Banks Are Showing What It Means to Be Resilient

By Thierry Nicault, Regional Vice-President, Middle East and Africa, Salesforce


The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted unprecedented intervention measures from governments across the globe, and especially in the Middle East. Despite facing their own challenges, banks also have a role to play in helping businesses and communities to navigate uncertainty. To customers, particularly in the context of lockdowns, trust in financial service providers is more important than ever. For banks, to grant access to funds and advice at scale requires innovation at speed. At Salesforce we believe that the Middle East bank of the future will be a digital platform. Indeed, by transforming whole business models, how decisions are made through data, and the customer experience, those which have embraced digital technologies have taught us three lessons in building resilience in a crisis. Connected Experiences Bring Agility From business loans to mortgage refinancing, the volume of inquiries over recent months has been unprecedented. Providing connected, multi-channel experiences is crucial to Middle East banks’ efforts to set up new services, provide convenience to customers, and keep cash flowing. Take, for instance, efforts to administer government-sponsored programs set up to provide emergency payments for small businesses and employees. Investing in application program interface (API) technologies, integrating internal bank systems as well as trusted third party systems, allows organisations to develop new services fast. Not only does this make lending operations more agile today, it will also help future-proof services to handle changing demands. One leading customer is the South Africa-based Standard Bank Group, which operates across Personal and Business Banking, Corporate and Investment Banking, and Wealth. Standard Bank Group serves more than 13 million customers in 27 markets. Standard Bank Group uses Audience Studio to track how customers engage with digital content, and has delivered a 104% performance increase of personal loan leads.

Recently, Standard Bank Group announced an extended partnership with Salesforce to deliver positive digital experiences to its clients. The bank’s collaboration – together with additional cloud capabilities and Amazon Web Services – will power the Standard Bank Group Digital Platform. Data Means Better Decision Making, Faster Where connected systems facilitate a 360 degree view of customers, Middle East relationship managers are empowered to make better informed decisions, faster. With this single source of truth, capturing financial account data and service inquiries from any channel in one place, they can identify and prioritise which clients require immediate help.

Analytics tools like Tableau and Einstein Analytics for banking can reveal real-time business insights to quickly sense and respond. These insights can inform decisions around adjusting operating models and creating programs that customers need.

Instant Support Enables Teams to Focus on Relationships

The entire customer experience is going digital. According to a recent McKinsey European customer survey, during just one month of lockdown, digital engagement levels in banking climbed up to 20 percent, the use of cash halved, while between 30 and 40% of customers expressed a greater need for advice.

And in a crisis, Middle East customers want answers fast. It’s no surprise that the deployment of chatbots is increasing, to deliver instant responses to customers around the clock. Embedded in online portals and mobile apps, they can also help guide customers through straightforward issues and transactions. In addition to reducing customer waiting time, they’re enabling customer support teams to engage in more strategic work and better focus on customer relationships.

Maintaining the Pace of Innovation

Just as the pandemic is testing the resilience of Middle East companies and communities, it is challenging financial services providers to step up for their customers. How banks boost their own resilience will increasingly depend on their agility to deliver services, and how they leverage data and personalise the customer experience.

Digitally transforming will help banks maintain the pace of innovation required today and into the future. It will also help them respond to consumer trends which evolve as a result of the pandemic. Doing all of this whilst ensuring security in all aspects of the business will have far-reaching impacts for the financial services industry and confidence in Middle East economies atlarge.

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