Majority of Middle East customers prefer digital banking, survey finds

Almost 60% of respondents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia prefer using a bank app to perform transactions

Banks are offering customers new ways to pay, including the use of digital currencies. Alamy
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Most Middle East residents prefer online banking, a trend accelerated because of the digital transformation of banking and payment industries in the past few years, new research shows.

Nearly 77 per cent of those surveyed in Saudi Arabia and 61 per cent in the UAE – the Arab world’s biggest economies – said they choose to do their banking online in some form, Minnesota technology company Entrust said in a recent survey.

Almost 60 per cent of respondents in the two countries said they prefer using the bank’s app, while 29 per cent liked using the desktop web browser.

Entrust surveyed 1,350 consumers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, the US, Canada, the UK, Germany, Singapore, Australia and Indonesia who have made or received digital payments in the past 12 months.

“This study highlights how, more than ever, consumer banking is about digital interactions first, and that they [banks] must create that digital experience with security at its foundation,” said Jenn Markey, vice president of product marketing at Entrust.

The survey revealed that consumers are likely to consider lower fees, digital solutions and security when choosing or changing their bank.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which led to lockdowns around the world, hastened the move to digital services as consumers switched to cashless payments and online shopping. More people use online banking services now to transfer money and pay for e-commerce transactions.

Globally, digital payments are expected to grow to $8.26 trillion by 2024, from $4.4tn in 2020, according to Statista.

Banking apps too recorded a surge in downloads, with account owners expecting a seamless, digital financial experience. Digital banking app downloads jumped 45 per cent globally, while traditional banks recorded a 22 per cent increase in installs between the last quarter of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, a report by AppsFlyer said last year.

Banks are also offering new ways to pay, including through digital currencies, to attract customers. More than 70 per cent of those surveyed by Entrust in Saudi Arabia and 67 per cent in the UAE said they would consider using digital currencies for payments.

Nearly 47 per cent of those polled in the UAE preferred contactless credit/debit cards for payments, but cards with chips (44 per cent) were a close second. Peer-to-peer payment apps and cards with magnetic strip (47 per cent) were the most preferred payment methods among respondents in Saudi Arabia.

Almost 64 per cent and 74 per cent of respondents in the Emirates and the kingdom, respectively, said they have received a digitally issued card from their bank.

“Digital cards can be an effective selling point as almost two thirds of survey respondents prefer to open a bank account digitally,”according to the report, which revealed that customers have become more security conscious.

More than 90 per cent of respondents in the UAE and Saudi Arabia said they were concerned about the threat of fraud as banking becomes more digital, the survey found.

Updated: March 10, 2022, 5:30 AM