“At the moment, the UAE government has created a clear mandate for citizen-centric services. Banking has been a pioneer in this area and mobile banking is leading among many expatriates,” said Anshu Vats, head of public sector and defence practice at A.T. Kearney Middle East.
He said that mobile banking is an integral part of every bank’s agenda as a way to overcoming outdated approaches and mismanaged client relationships.
In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, he said, there are large portions of expat population that are unbankable (not able to open an account) while remittances and electronic transactions are becoming a critical part of their life.
In line with the government’s clear-cut direction, “our role is to empower them,” Vats said.
According to a report from A. T. Kearney and European Financial Management Association (EFMA), the UAE is analysed as one country in the region that could quickly adopt digital banking.
The UAE is currently ranked 17th on the Digital Banking Readiness Index, not yet an attractive environment for digital banking.
“Only 15 per cent of people right now do daily transactions online but it is moving in the right direction. About 40 per cent of people say they would like to do online transactions. We have to capture that but how quickly we can attain that 40 per cent is up to the banks. We have to make the entire device attractive and readily available to people,” said Philip King, head of retail banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.
He said the global target is around 36 per cent, so the UAE is “on the right track” for achieving these targets.
According to Jakal Douame, manager of online banking channel at Mashreq, mobile banking has changed with the roll-out of Apple and Samsung smartphones.
“It is the right time to leverage on mobile. At Mashreq, we live for now and think about the future,” he said.
“Our customers are adopting the new technology and we expect that in the next two to three years, a new generation of people will become more tech-savvy and they need what they want online,” Douame said.
He said that the UAE has created the “environment and the infrastructure” for digital banking.
Customer experience is very important and “we need to bring that same experience to the mobile banking space,” Vats said.
Banks in the UAE have reached a “high level of sophistication” in a short period of time compared to its European counterparts. “The banks are trying to use mobile as a channel. They [banks] are trying to jam all the transactions that used to be done at the branches to online and now we are thinking of moving it to the mobile space,” he said.
However, he said the reality is that mobile needs to find its own solution. How many mobile apps are out there which allows users to do meaningful things?