The Innovators 2021: Middle East

Aiding clients in weathering the pandemic involves more than deploying a few service tweaks.

Face-to-face business was among Covid-19’s earliest casualties, forcing companies to accelerate their technological transformation plans, according to Philip King, global head of retail banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), the winner of the region’s Outstanding Crisis Finance Innovations 2021.

“It has prompted a fundamental shift in customer behavior, marked by an increased preference for remote and contactless banking experience,” he says. “Nowadays, digitization of banking services has become a necessary advancement to help banks fuel new growth opportunities and unlock greater value for customers. However, to retain customer loyalty and attract new customers, banks need to reimagine their approach in delivering a holistic and personalized banking experience.”

ADIB recognizes the need to deliver distinctive and personalized banking services for its customers. The bank leveraged data analytics to track and analyze the evolving financial behaviors of its customers through its Analytics Center of Excellence (ACE), which the bank launched in March.

“ACE is a fully integrated, real-time data analysis and visualization center that aggregates real-time information across all ADIB’s business units and uses smart analytical models, AI [artificial intelligence] and big data to generate operational insights and recommendations,” explains King. “Through the data and insights gathered from ACE, ADIB aims to develop more tailored solutions and products that will drive further value for customers.”

Recent digital initiatives launched by ADIB include a remote sales platform allowing customers to interact with ADIB and apply for personal finance, covered cards and other banking products without having to leave their homes.

The bank also partnered with the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Finance to offer a new range of eDirham card which enables UAE residents to access 5,000 government services, adopted SAS’ AI-driven Fraud Detection to enhance its fraud detection capabilities, worked with IBM to adopt a hybrid cloud platform to strengthen the bank’s digital infrastructure, introduced the Apple Pay service to let customers make contactless payments and partnered with Huawei to allow Huawei smartphone users to access ADIB’s Mobile Banking App.

ADIB also launched its ADIB Chat Banking—a customer-care chatbot that is accessible via the WhatsApp messaging platform to provide clients with key information regarding their accounts and finances.

“We also launched a digital booking service that lets customers schedule their branch visits ahead of time through the online banking platform and mobile banking app,” adds King. “In addition, customers can virtually update their personal information such as their Emirates ID national identity card, passport and contact details without having to visit the branch.”

For retail customers, ADIB introduced more enhancements to its mobile app, including the launch of the Express Finance service that provides qualifying customers with instant access to personal finance. In response to the banking needs of corporate clients, ADIB updated its digital transaction banking and trade finance platforms with the launch of ADIB Direct eFX, enabling businesses, with just a few clicks, to access foreign exchange services to support their imports and exports.

    Gulf International Bank (GIB), the Middle East’s Outstanding Financial Innovator 2021, also looked at ways of helping corporate customers. In-house banking using virtual account management will help corporate clients manage complex global account structures and control working capital effectively; and a bundled package offers seamless collection and reconciliation, which will completely digitize business processes for many segments. This holistic approach also helps customers move away from physical cash and check-based collections.