Digital transformation and digitisation are just some of the buzzwords which have saturated the banking space in recent years.
For United Arab Bank (UAB), the company’s digital strategy isn’t about following trends or excessive expenditure on new technology, it's about taking pragmatic, informed steps to ensure that the focus is on what matters the most – the customer.
With this focus in mind, UAB is using up-to-date technology to realise the true potential of digital transformation. In doing so, it is ensuring that the customer receives the world-class service it expects.
“I do believe that behind each service or transaction we do for our customers, there is either a human story or a commercial aspect and, in both cases, we cannot miss out on these,” says UAB’s Chief Operating Officer Izzidin Abusalameh.
“Therefore, customer service is, and will remain, one of our top priorities. Whether it's technology from the 1980s or today, it's more about how you deliver it and how you use it.
“Digital transformation is a prime focus for any bank or financial institution, but UAB is keen to achieve this objective through ‘smart digitisation’ by adopting latest technologies and adding the data dimension to it,” he adds.
For Abusalameh, UAB’s digital transformation strategy is straightforward – apply the latest technologies in a simple, smart and proactive way whilst keeping the bank’s customer in mind.
“By applying technology in an appropriate way, we aspire to be proactive,” he explains. “This allows us to reach out to our customers who may need help before they even raise their hand to ask for assistance. This proactive approach is the cornerstone of our philosophy on which our digital transformation is based.”
UAB has a strong reputation in the UAE’s banking industry since it was established in Sharjah about 43 years back. While in 2017, the bank made an annual net profit of AED17mn, it has clocked an impressive AED36mn profit in the first quarter of 2018, demonstrating the strength of its ‘core’ business.
To deliver ‘smart digitisation’, Abusalameh says that the bank is working on a plan to consolidate the number of systems it has. In doing so, it is also creating a core banking structure, using powerful state-of-the-art tools from the tech industry to ensure operational efficiency, productivity and sustainable growth.
“It entails careful selection of technologies and only working with the industry leaders in that specific market,” Abusalameh says.
“We use industry leading market research rankings and look into certain areas of technology to see who the market leaders are. We deep dive into their functional capabilities and evaluate their technical components according to the bank’s current and future requirements in order to arrive at an optimal technology which is in sync with the bank’s overall IT architecture.
“Working alongside tier one technology providers to implement their ‘out of box’ version in line with the industry’s leading practices has become a guiding principle,” he adds.
By undertaking a deep level of planning and understanding, the UAE-based firm is getting the maximum potential from its technologies.
Unlocking the potential of technologies
Abusalameh says that this pragmatic approach is helping the bank connect its different technological tools so that it can create one streamlined digital strategy.
“UAB is also investing in new enterprise resource planning (ERP), human capital management (HCM) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems from SAP to eliminate non-value-added tasks,” he says. “This means that staff can focus on addressing their customers’ needs which enhances productivity.
“When you acquire a new global HR system you will also acquire new best practices which, of course, increases efficiency,” he adds. “This is also applicable to our other systems such as ERP.”
The power of data
Today, data is often described as the ‘new oil’ – valuable to have, even more so if it’s refined and used efficiently.
UAB recognises the importance of data and has committed to use it to drive its strategy.
“Today, data is what everyone’s talking about by far,” Abusalameh adds. “Data hasn’t become valuable overnight, it’s always been important but its value has truly been realised in the last two decades.
“That's why I always encourage bank’s head of digital and head of data to work closely together more than ever before. With changing times, our impetus is more towards using statistics and data science to help the bank leverage the power of predictive analytics in real time.”
In this way, data ensures that continuous improvement is at the cornerstone of UAB’s strategy.
“Our commitment towards being a data-driven bank is evidenced by the fact that Informatica, a leading data management platform, gave us an award last year for our innovative data management platform and products,” Abusalameh adds.
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Yet, with ever-more data, this is not only driving efficiency and operational excellence internally; it is also transforming the customer’s experience.
“In every bank today, data helps companies gain a 360-degree view of their customers but if you gain even more data, you will be able to predict their behaviour, improve your service, and provide a 3D view of your customers whereby you understand them a bit deeper,” Abusalameh explains.
“This can make much a difference if you can then reach out to a customer. So, for instance, if you find out that one of your customers is struggling to use his credit card overseas, you can reach out to them by phoning them or texting them to offer assistance, rather than waiting for them to have a bad experience.”
The company’s digital transformation has been a huge task but it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the international tech community, apparent as the bank collected the Genesys Award for Best Use of Technology in the Banking sector last year.
A mindset shift
Referring to the biggest challenge for the bank, Abusalameh says that that the shift in mindset that took place to bring about this digital transformation was a daunting task, but successfully implemented by the management.
“For any transformation, journey changing the mindset of the company is usually one of the top challenges,” he says. “It basically requires open-mindedness and commitment from everyone in the team starting from the top management.”
In addition, Abusalameh says that technology software was another challenge to implement smart digitisation process.
“Many of the world’s major technology suppliers need to do more to make their products more flexible and easy to implement,” he notes. “The more flexible your platform is, the quicker you can adapt it and take it to market.”
All in all, it seems that United Arab Bank will always remain known for one thing - the bank’s continuous commitment to its customers.
“We're aspiring to give the best customer service in the UAE,” Abusalameh concludes. “We want to be recognised as a bank to stand by, a bank which puts the customer first.”