Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, the biggest Sharia-compliant lender in the emirate, launched a digital-only bank to tap into the UAE’s growing segment of tech-savvy youths.
The bank, known as Amwali (which means my money in Arabic), will sign up Generation Z youths between the ages of eight and 18 through a smartphone app that comes with a debit card that can be connected to Apple Pay and other mobile wallets.
“We are putting a lot of emphasis on youths at ADIB as they form such a strong part of the future of this country … we are excited to present a programme to financially empower the generation that will shape the UAE’s next 50 years,” said Raweya Al Qader, head of youth banking at ADIB.
Millennials and their younger cohort will reshape the financial industry in their tech-savvy, mobile-first image, with ramifications for all consumers, companies and investors, according to Morgan Stanley.
The rise of FinTech companies, an increasingly digital-savvy consumer base and a jump in digital services have forced banks globally to invest in digitisation.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which led to lockdowns and social distancing around the world, hastened the move into digital services as consumers switched to cashless payments and online shopping.
Digital-only banks are not a new concept 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.
However, independent digital banks are also entering the market, including Al Maryah Community Bank, which secured a licence from the UAE Central Bank in April this year.
This was followed by the launch of the UAE’s first independent digital bank, Zand, which caters to retail and corporate clients.
ADQ, the conglomerate that owns Abu Dhabi government stakes in a range of businesses, last year revealed plans to set up a digital bank in the UAE using a legacy banking licence held by First Abu Dhabi Bank.
Through ADIB’s Amwali app, which is controlled by parents, young customers will be able to create savings goals, receive regular allowances from their parents, send money to friends and family, and also have access to range of financial tools and knowledge resources to help them learn smart money skills.
“Our research shows that many UAE millennials and Gen Zs are looking for a dedicated digital channel that truly delivers their banking needs and financial goals,” Ms Al Qader said.
“They have grown accustomed to fast-paced and digital interactions that offer convenience and mobility, especially as we progress towards a more technology-led and cashless society.”
ADIB developed Amwali with the help of the Founders Club, a group of young Emiratis and their parents, to identify their digital banking priorities, such as access to financial knowledge and personalised offers that fit their lifestyles.
According to a 2019 financial literacy survey by Visa, 43 per cent of respondents in the UAE aged between 16 and 24, said they are not ready to manage their own money, while 53 per cent said schools did not prepare them enough to take care of their finances.
“Parents in the UAE are looking for ways to help their children manage their money as they take charge of their financial future and we listened to their feedback,” Ms Al Qader said.
“With Amwali, we fill this gap by integrating financial literacy, budget control and banking services in a simple, convenient and digitised banking experience. Through this innovative solution, we hope to empower the UAE’s next generation at an early age.”
Parents with an ADIB account can open an Amwali account on their smartphone through the bank's mobile app. Once activated, the child can download the app on their own smartphone and access the account. They can also choose their own debit card design.
ADIB is planning to unveil more features on Amwali, including provisions that allow children to earn extra allowances by completing tasks set by their parents. It will also introduce videos and gamify the financial learning process, enabling children to earn points as they complete courses.
“We now have over 100,000 customers under the age of 24 banking with us and our goal is to expand youth access to personalised and safe financial products and services, as well as to empower them to establish a disciplined culture with regards to managing their finances,” Philip King, ADIB's global head of retail banking, said.