High time to refresh retail banking strategies, say experts

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Emirates Business

As technology is fast changing the face of all industries, banking — and in particular retail banking — is one sector that is showing marked inclination towards the new-age marvels to spruce up its functioning. Middle East region is witnessing banks investing huge capital towards digitising their operations and in capacity building in order to harness the technology offerings upto the optimum levels. However, to enable a smooth process of this digital transformation, there is a need of refreshed and re-thought of strategies for retail banking in Middle East as it is elsewhere. This was the combined contention of experts at the ongoing Retail Banking Forum and Expo, which is powered by
“Technology has definitely changed the way we bank and this transition has been more rapid in the past few years. Right from the structure of bank branches, to the way you pay your loans, banks need to recognise the changing consumer trends and we need to act on them. Main preference of consumers is online operations and we must add to our digital capabilities to meet their rising expectations,” said Anil Kumar, Head Of Retail Banking, Commercial Bank International.
Talking about the innovative concept of banking without branches, Kumar emphasised that although it is difficult to think of banks without branches in near future, he agreed that there will be a good reduction in the number.
“We have to understand the strategy about how to refurbish our operations to strike a balance as customers are also changing with time. The future of the retail banking will be in omni-channel platform that makes banking accessible to customers anytime and from anywhere,”stated Kumar.

Robotics in Banking
Customers certainly cannot ask for anything more — robots serving them at the bank.
Though this will increase the accuracy in banking, there are concerns that it will cut down thousands of jobs in banking sector worldwide.
This was one of the innovative as well as fast-emerging retail banking trends that was discussed for is viability, pros and cons during the conference. Suvrat Saigal, MD and Head of Global Retail National Bank of Abu Dhabi, said, “This issue needs to be looked into by the banks that are adopting technology in most of their operations. We must not underplay the importance of human beings while taking full advantage of the technology not just in banking but in any sector,” he stated.

Females in Banking
The expo also threw light on the growing role of females in the banking sector and advocated for strong human resource strategies to make sure more females are promoted to leadership positions in this sector. In one of the panel discussions during the event, Ian Hodges, Managing Director, Retail Banking at RAK Bank, said, “Females in banking leadership roles is a much ‘deeper’ topic than it sounds”. “There are around 50 percent females in the world who are shaping the future. We have to look into framing more effective strategies so that we can have more of them (women) in our own offices. It is their perspective that can bring in huge changes in our sector and we must understand that,” said Hodges.

Mobile Banking
The nature of banking business is changing and mobile banking is a quickly developing sector of the finance industry. Smartphones are now a way of life in the Middle East where 98 percent of population owns at least one smart device.
Sanjoy Sen, Managing Director Retail Banking Asia Pacific, AANZ, said, “People are getting involved in intensive banking through their mobile phones and other digital devices. There is a disruption of technology which the banks should be well aware of. Most important is to now the needs of the rapidly smartphone-engaged customers.”

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