Dubai Islamic Bank, the UAE’s biggest Sharia-compliant lender, launched Rabbit, a “fun” digital offering that seeks to attract more technology-savvy millennials and help the unbanked in the UAE and other heavily populated markets to get access to the formal financial system.
“The idea of Rabbit is [to go] beyond the UAE … the idea is to take to different markets we are operating in. That has been the core of our strategy,” Adnan Chilwan, group chief executive of DIB, told a media briefing in Dubai on Tuesday.
“Some of the markets we are operating in are huge in terms of population – Indonesia, Pakistan and Kenya. If you look at these markets, they require a proposition [like Rabbit]."
The UAE market will serve as a prototype and the bank at a later stage will work with regulators in other markets to introduce Rabbit.
“This for us is just the start of a journey,” Mr Chilwan said.
The new app, which the DIB chief described as "FunTech” rather than FinTech, is available on Apple and Android mobile app stores. It is initially launched with a current account, globally accepted debit card, and payments and money transfer transfers. The bank will later introduce credit card and other features to the app that also offers discounts to customers.
There are too many financial apps and digital offerings available in the market, however, “we saw a void in the market, as the fun element was missing in FinTech”, Mr Chilwan said.
“Rabbit is the new bunny in town” that offers fun-filled interaction, while fulfilling the everyday financial needs for the new generation and millennials, he added.
Banks and financial institutions globally are investing heavily in strengthening their digital offering to capture technology-savvy customer base. The Covid-19 pandemic, which led to lockdowns and social distancing around the world, has increased the adoption of digital services as consumers switched to cashless payments and online shopping.
There are several digital-only banks operating in the UAE. In the first half of 2017, Emirates NBD launched Liv. bank, which is aimed millennials. Mashreq, Dubai’s oldest lender, also unveiled Mashreq Neo in the same year.
Mr Chilwan said Rabbit is not a digital-only bank. It is a digital proposition through a stand-alone entity, which will have its own “organic journey going forward” as it evolves according to customer needs.
The launch of Rabbit and continued improvement of DIB’s digital banking and mobile banking offerings are not a precursor to DIB reducing its brick-and-mortar branch network. The lender, which currently operates about 68 branches across the UAE, over the years has rationalised its network by selecting the right locations to serve its growing customers base, he said.
"We are at the optimum size right now,” Mr Chilwan said. “We will always have brick-and-mortar [branches], and you will never see us without [them]”.
Rabbit is a proposition that is different from DIB’s digital and mobile banking app. The bank plans to continue spending “as much as needed” on enhancing its digital capabilities, he said, without giving a number.
“We have some really serious digital ambitions and DIB [acronym] should resonate as Digitally Intelligent Bank,” he said. “Rabbit is a step in that direction.”
Rabbit, which currently caters to the retail customers only, will offer services for small and medium-sized enterprises as it “evolves” in the future.