Sunday 09, April 2017 by Nabilah Annuar

Are banks listening?

Customers want a secure digital experience, says Marwan Elnakat, Digital Banking Solutions Director for Middle East & Africa at Gemalto.

There is no doubt that technological advances in the financial industry are changing the way we bank. With the use of mobile devices for all banking needs being at an all-time high and only expected to increase further, it’s no surprise that digital banking is rising in popularity at a rapid pace.


According to Juniper Research, in the MEA region, the value of online banking transactions will reach $1.3 billion in 2017 and will hit over $2 billion by 2020. This, together with predictions that mobile banking users in the MENA region will exceed 80 million by 2017, leaves financial institutions and banks around the world and in the region no choice but to remain competitive by offering digitalised services.


Customers at the heart of the banking strategy


The current banking landscape is defined by one key word ‘digitisation’. Consumers around the world are increasingly opting for online and mobile banking options over visiting local branches, which will soon significantly reshape the way banks do business. Due to the availability of numerous digital platforms such as smartphones, tablets, and mobile applications—today’s customers live in a world of heightened expectations and options.


Having real-time mobile access to financial information such as account balance, charges, money transfers and statements has become a baseline expectation today. With such a large push towards digital banking, it’s vital for banks and other financial institutions to invest in strengthening their digital presence, to capture and retain business.


Several banks in the region for example, Emirates NBD, have already started to focus on customer experience via instant and user-friendly services. In Saudi Arabia, Al Rajhi bank enables its customers to renew their banking card using self-service kiosks with instant card delivery. All of this has been made possible due to new partnerships and collaboration between incumbent banks and fintech providers, proposing seamless customer experience to better manage their financial needs; aggregating all banking information for the user and offering more personalised services to customers.


New payment methods


It is no surprise that the retail payments sector is growing fast in terms of innovation and adoption of new payment capabilities. Growth in e-commerce in the region has facilitated and encouraged the further development of digital payment experiences. Demand for optimised payments experience—in terms of speed, convenience and multi-channel accessibility is diffusing into the corporate and retail payment arenas.


Banks are launching key innovative solutions such as mobile wallets, person-to-person payments, real-time payments, digital currency solutions such as bitcoin, artificial intelligence, biometrics and blockchain ledgers to facilitate faster transactions and operations but also add more security to banking transactions.


Internet of Things


Internet of Things (IoT) and broadband connectivity is without a doubt, one of the biggest technological transformations on the horizon. Banks are now investing increasing amounts into infrastructure that will support a new network of connected devices, creating a world of benefits to reach far beyond the payment process, essentially impacting all areas of banking.


One key example is the potential transformation in the consumer-bank relationship. Machine-to-machine connectivity enables the mass collection and exchange of data from sensors and connected objects or “things” resulting in extensive opportunities for banks to better track and analyse customer behaviours and their wants and demands for financial products and services, allowing for a far more personalised experience with targeted advice, offers and insight.


Corporate clients and consumers will be able to access a much more holistic and detailed view of their finances—anytime, anywhere and banks will be able to offer far more customised products and solutions to aid customers in making sound financial decisions—it is a win-win situation for all. From a bank’s perspective, being far more technologically-savvy, will help them stay ahead of the curve, achieve better commercial results and also grow and retain their business.




Convenient security is paramount to a user-friendly and safe mobile and digital banking experience. So far, banks have been deploying one authentication method for all customers. However, times have changed and each individual has a unique set of requirements. Banks must adopt a multi-layered security approach as a part of their authentication strategy including not only mobile one-time-password but also biometric authentication through facial recognition, finger print or voice recognition, so customers can select the authentication method most suited to their needs and way of life.

With technological advances in the banking sector, financial institutions will have a far more detailed view of the customer and only a multi-layered security approach will ensure that all data on the entire ecosystem—through the network and the cloud—remains safe. In addition, rising identity fraud and regulations have resulted in banks implementing processes such as ‘know your customer’ to minimise risk and build trust within the banking ecosystem.


Looking ahead

Throughout 2017 and beyond, we will see key changes in the banking sector as it continues to embrace technological advances. This can only mean good news for both banks and customers alike—as banks continue to build stronger relationships, offer customers personalised products and services and better guide investment decisions.


Technology will continue to reshape the industry putting customers at the epi-centre of the bank’s strategy—a promising change from the banking of yesteryears. From a bank’s perspective, technological investments can only bring more agility and scalability to the business so banks can stay ahead of the game.

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