Technology and society are evolving at a never-before-seen pace, which puts businesses in an era of digital Darwinism. In the rapidly unfolding future, banks need to transform themselves with a new mindset, completely different concepts of leadership, and innovative business models.
Since the pandemic and subsequent restrictions, there has been rapid adoption of digital banking — a trend that is expected to continue as new technologies and products improve options for customers. At National Bank of Fujairah, the transition to digital that started before the pandemic is now accelerating, making digital the preferred choice for consumers.
The Rise of Digital Banking
The bank’s technological overhaul, which is part of a digital strategy dating back to 2015, has already resulted in lower transaction costs, improved operational efficiency through automation and optimisation, and a substantial increase in online banking. Moreover, customers are conducting a wide range of their day-to-day banking activities, such as applying for cards and financing or paying bills via online banking channels.
In a region, where banks often pride themselves on the size of their branch networks, customers are increasingly leaning towards digital transaction/online banking. To date, more than 86 percent of the outward remittances are now initiated through NBF’s online banking channels and more than 70 percent of the bank’s customers have transitioned from traditional branch visits to online banking. In some processing areas, more than 90 percent of transactions are now fully automated.
National Bank of Fujairah is also transforming its branch network in the UAE and investing in new products and services for clients. The bank’s Virtual Teller Machine (VTM) allows customers to connect one-to-one with a live teller through real-time video, allowing them to virtually complete any transaction that can be made within a branch while still receiving the personalised service. Because of the digital push, cash deposits at branches have dropped to 45.6 percent which calculates up to more than 65 percent earlier in the first nine months of last year.
Digital Payments and E-wallets
With much of the world shifting online due to Covid-19, the bank rolled out a number of new products in 2020. This included Emirates Digital Wallet, launched last year under its trade name, Klip. It marked a major milestone in the UAE's push towards a cashless future, enabling person-to-person payments via mobile phones. The project is expected to eliminate 60-70 percent cash in circulation, according to estimates. The rollout of Klip is expected to accelerate the use of digital solutions in place of cash and open a wealth of related services for the unbanked. NBF is at the forefront of the country’s initiatives to become a cashless society as the UAE looks towards the future.
In addition, NBF was also part of another initiative, eDirham Instant, a digital payment method that allows customers to securely pay for governmental fees and services driving the cashless society initiative forward.
The bank also participated in the launch of UAE Trade Connect, a nationwide blockchain platform, co-created by Etisalat Digital and seven other banks; this platform aims at supporting financial institutions to combat fraud and duplication and to tackle key issues in the trade finance space. The solution is one of the key steps towards achieving financial and monetary stability, efficiency, and resilience in the financial system and is aligned with the UAE government’s vision to bring futuristic technologies like blockchain enabling economic growth.
Recently NBF launched its electronic trading platform-NBFX. Expanding the bank’s digital offerings, where it offers customers a bespoke digital experience to hedge their treasury requirements and is available for both conventional and Shariah-compliant banking customers, available 24/5.
SMEs are the backbone of the UAE economy, contributing about 52 percent of the country’s non-oil gross domestic product, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Economy in December 2019. Over the years, the bank has established an impressive track record in the SME space as part of its vision of being the partner of choice to businesses across the UAE.
To support SMEs and aid their growth and recovery, NBF developed an innovative new platform co-created with SMEs called NBF CONNECT. The community platform serves as a one-stop-shop for SME members which includes access to a suite of services and solutions as well as knowledge-sharing capabilities.
The platform provides members with exclusive features that have been tailored to their specific needs. A suite of business services provided by fellow SMEs such as HR services, legal support, e-commerce, and marketplace management for the SME community to meet their business needs. NBF CONNECT is an important part of the business ecosystem as notable partners like Etisalat and Visa partnered with NBF to offer a range of non-banking services to empower SMEs with the right tools and support them to move ahead in their journey.
Testament to the bank’s steady growth in the digitalization journey and significant overhaul of its online banking NBF was recently awarded the ‘Most Innovative Emerging Technology Implementation’ title at the MEA Finance's Banking Technology Awards 2021 - a remarkable success for being the region’s first bank to roll out a centrally authenticated internet banking platform with advanced features, improving customer experience and security.
NBF’s continued investment in digitalisation and innovation will ensure that the bank continues to deliver differentiated customer service and cost efficiency and at the same time create new sources of business development for future growth.