UAE Bank Going Digital-Only

The Commercial Bank of Dubai will soon launch CBD NOW, the UAE’s first digital-only bank. The new bank is based entirely online and will offer all the services a regular bank does, such as current accounts, saving accounts and credit card accounts.

For CBD, the idea is to reach out to young customers who carry out much of their daily activities on their mobile phones.

“With digital banking we can target a new audience that is currently underserviced: millennials and digitally connected people,” says Chet Galpin, chief marketing officer at CBD.

CBD NOW also plans to collaborate with those new customers through a “co-founder program” encouraging customers to participate in the development of new digital services via voting. “We are building a bank that is different from the rest, and so we want our co-founders to get involved and participate in the creation and development of the new bank,” says Stelios Michaelides, CBD’s head of digital banking.

“The MENA region lags behind more-developed markets in digital banking,” says Omar Christidis, CEO and founder of the ArabNet network. “Nevertheless, this is changing as younger, tech-savvy customers expect digital to be a primary channel for everything from ordering a private car to buying the latest fashion— and certainly banking.”

According to the 2016 ArabNet report on digital banking in the Middle East, 62% of bank account holders in the region have adopted digital banking, and 74% in the UAE.

Two other Emirati banks are also about to launch digital-only branches. Last June the country’s biggest bank—Emirates NBD—announced a $136 million investment in digital innovation, including an online bank targeting millennials. In October, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank partnered with Germany’s Fidor Bank to develop a similar service, tailored for Islamic finance customers.