The 50-plus banks operating in the UAE are fighting for customers’ attention. From dates and coffee in the atrium (Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank) to the greatest number of ATMs (Emirates NBD), all claim an advantage.
RAKBank today waded into the fray. It unveiled a new vehicle to attract the banking public, an app called MobileCash that the bank is positioning as a pared-down way to transfer money.
The recipient doesn’t even need a bank account – they enter a code and pick up the money from a RAKBank ATM. So if you want to send money to the kids or the gardener you tap the app, put in the recipient’s phone number and amount and push send, job done. The recipient doesn’t even need a smartphone.
“There are a few other banks in the country that have done something similar, but if you look at the user experience it’s not so simple, one has to log on and go through the internet banking etc,” said Peter England, the chief executive of RAKBank. “Ours is as simple as possible. It doesn’t need to be a smartphone or to someone with a bank account. They go and pick the money up from one of RAKBank’s ATMs using a code that is sent to them. If they have the app it will tell them their closest ATM machine.”
Technology is an increasingly easy way for banks to differentiate themselves, but perhaps for not much longer. In June the UAE Banks Federation said that it had launched its mobile wallet project. The use of “smart wallets” is intended to enable government services to be paid for using state-of-the-art technology with the ability to make purchases, store money and transfer it to others securely.
“I don’t see the government’s smart wallet project happening any time soon,” said Mr England. “Our MobileCash app didn’t cost a huge amount, probably less that a few hundred thousand dirhams. For us information technology is not a revenue driver, it is a service which we offer to our customers. We have seen 25 per cent of all our customers sign up for mobile banking, and about 5,000 more sign up every month, so it obviously offers something different to them.”
RAKBank’s press launch of its new app suggested a more emphatic approach to engaging with the public and may be the starter pistol for a broader movement into the banking sector as a whole.
“We are seeing increased account openings across the board, we are 15 per cent [to] 20 per cent up on last year. Our lending volumes are through the roof, the balance sheet grew about 14 per cent this year so the bank is expanding very fast,” said Mr England. “We may look at an Islamic banking subsidiary. We currently have a finance company subsidiary but we see Islamic penetration of products on new sales about 40-50 per cent, particularly on auto loans, so it’s a very strong area for us.”
RAKBank, in which the government of Ras Al Khaimah is the biggest investor, posted revenue in this year’s second quarter of Dh874.3 million, up 10.6 per cent from the year-earlier quarter.
The latest quarter’s net income of Dh365.9m was, however, 6.6 per cent lower from a year earlier.
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