Consumer trust in UAE banks improves amid digital transformation

Nearly three quarters of respondents in annual UAE Banks Federation survey have high trust in country’s banking sector

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 12 SEPTEMBER 2019. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair. Results of the 2018 Trust Index Survey conducted by the UAE Banks Federation in collaboration with Kantar. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Nada El Sawy. Section: Business.
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Around three quarters of consumers in the UAE have high trust in the country’s banking sector, up from 68 per cent in 2017, according to the UAE Banks Federation’s Trust Index survey, as financial institutions are increasingly offering digital customer service options.

“I think it’s a phenomenal improvement in the trust in the banking system,” said Abdulaziz Al Ghurair, chairman of UBF, a body representing 52 member banks in the country, at a press conference Thursday.

In its fourth year, the trust index measures consumer perceptions and confidence in the UAE banking industry. The 2018 survey, conducted with research consultancy Kantar, was based on responses from 1,515 adults in the UAE.

“The sustainable growth of the economy is strongly related to consumer confidence, and trust is a key parameter that helps us understand the banking industry’s capability to generate this confidence,” said Mr Al Ghurair, who is also chief executive of Mashreq Bank. “We are delighted that despite global geopolitical and economic headwinds, this fourth edition of the Trust Index survey shows marked improvements.”

The UAE had a higher trust score than other developed nations, including the US, UK, China, Japan, France and Germany, when compared to Kantar equity studies in different markets. The scores ranged from 56 per cent in Germany to 66 per cent in China.

Trust in the UAE banking sector was at 70 per cent in 2015, going down to 68 per cent in 2016 and 2017 before recovering to 74 per cent in 2018. Consumers’ overall impressions of UAE banks have steadily improved with 83 per cent of participants having a “very positive” perception, compared with 76 per cent in 2017, 72 per cent in 2016 and 70 per cent in 2015.

In terms of meeting the expectations of consumers, 95 per cent of UAE retail banking customers said they are satisfied with the performance of their main bank. Areas that improved included “excellent customer service", which went up from 65 per cent to 76 per cent; “contribution to the economy”, up from 68 per cent to 77 per cent; and “range of products and services”, up from 65 per cent to 76 per cent.

However, when asked what challenges banks in the UAE faced, 61 per cent of the respondents answered “high interest rates for loans and credit cards”.

Consumers seemed to feel confident that technology is helping banks deal with a variety of issues in the sector. “Keeping up with digital innovations” was the highest performing area. Online banking penetration has reached 92 per cent in the UAE banks, according to a recent note from S&P Global.

“In Mashreq today, 97 per cent of our transactions are digitally done, so there’s no human being involved,” said Mr Al Ghurair. He said that having everything digitally available increases transparency, as consumers can “read everything on the screen” and see for themselves what options they want.

Mr Al Ghurair also said UBF “launched this year an ethical framework where we are now requiring every single sales man and woman in banking to be trained and get a certificate on ethical selling, so we ensure there is zero unethical selling to the customers”.