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A red card for cash: football fans empowered by digital-first banking at the World Cup

An opinion piece by Amjad Ramahi, Solutions Engineer at Backbase

Amjad Ramahi, Solutions Engineer at Backbase

Football’s biggest tournament has arrived in the Middle East for the first time ever, and with it more than 1.5 million fans from around the world.

The diversity of supporters headed to Doha will be matched by the multitude of overseas banks tasked with meeting the daily financial needs of their customers during their stay.

How well each fan’s bank performs will have as big an impact on their experience at the World Cup as their team’s displays on the pitch.

Financial institutions with a solid, reliable, interconnected, and integrated Engagement Banking architecture will score highly with customers who expect the same standard of swift, seamless, digital banking services they enjoy at home.

As a comprehensive Engagement Banking Platform provider, Backbase recognizes the vital importance of spotting the latest digital banking trends and delivering the most in-demand services to customers, wherever they are in the world. Traveling fans whipped up by the excitement of watching their footballing heroes simply want to bank anytime, anywhere, hassle-free while they focus on enjoying the on-field action.

This means banks that don’t provide a modern digitally enabled platform of functions, and which still rely on traditional forms of banking – such as limits on foreign purchases, cash-only transactions overseas, and a limited branch focused, online, or telephone-only customer service, for example – run the risk of scoring a dramatic, and potentially damaging, own goal with their clients.

Digital expectations

Visiting this World Cup will be a thoroughly modern, digital-first experience for fans.

Compared to previous tournaments, the expectations of bank customers/traveling fans will be aligned with a shared focus on access to digitally enabled, swift, and simple banking and payment solutions.

While ride hailing platforms like Careem or Uber, or food deliveries sites such as Uber Eats or Talabat etc, were largely unavailable or in their infancy at other World Cups, nowadays they can be used via a smartphone or with the tap of a card, anywhere and at any time.

The majority of traveling supporters are expected to use card and virtual payment methods for almost every transaction in Doha, from flights to hotel bookings, taxi rides and daily F&B purchases, without the need to carry physical cash.

A ready-made banking infrastructure, complete with a digitally focused ecosystem of businesses and services, means this will be a tournament unlike any other. Access to modern and comprehensive Engagement Banking Platforms means customers will be empowered with a sense of convenience and connectivity.

Cash purchases are expected to be in the minority, with contactless options leading the way – the result of a global shift to convenient banking services such as payments, or managing cards, and the lingering effects of COVID-19 on consumer habits and expectations.

Ahead of the World Cup, Qatar’s National Bank had announced an acceleration of its digital banking capabilities, with payments accepted by GooglePay, ApplePay, and Samsung Pay as well as licenses issued to platforms such as iPay by Vodafone Qatar and Ooredoo Money.[1]

Instigated to make the fan – and banking/payments – experience as easy, engaging, and practical as possible, access to these services will leave a positive and lasting impression on visiting consumers and local merchants alike.

Delivering on engagement

Engagement Banking solutions, such as those provided by Backbase, go beyond simply tapping a card or logging into an app.

Comprehensive and integrated platforms they can leverage AI and machine learning tools to interact with customers, predict their needs, and provide easy solutions in the form of swift payment/loan options, secure transactions – including virtual replacements for lost cards – daily savings goals, quick access to accounts to adjust/set spending limits, and much more.

These features are designed around the customer, to meet their lifestyle needs and provide them with banking services that not only match their expectations, but also delight their experience, boosting loyalty to their financial institution of choice.

A fully functioning financial partnership between a customer and their bank, with the ability to delight consumers through a combination of tailored services and protection, Engagement Banking is the pinnacle of modern banking.

Overseas banks that have so far failed to integrate themselves into the global digital financial network will be at a huge disadvantage during the World Cup, with their customers forced to navigate foreign exchange houses and cumbersome cash transactions.

They also face the possibility of a backlash from returning customers – World Cup fans who realized their experience could have been much better if their bank provided a comprehensive platform of digital services. Whether this results in clients showing a red card to their bank, or just a yellow encouraging it to pick up the pace of change, remains to be seen.

Banking goals

As the most digital-enabled football tournament ever held, the 2022 World Cup will firmly put the merits of Engagement Banking in the global spotlight.

The perfect showcase for an exciting and expanding landscape of banking services, developing to meet the needs of today’s demanding, connected customers, this World Cup represents the beginning of a fully global and digital banking landscape – the first half of a thrilling game that is sure to go well into extra time and beyond.

With this in mind, the question banks need to ask is: have they done enough to delight their customers and keep them loyal fans of the bank to be on the winning side?

[1] Qatar Introduces Digital Payment Services Ahead of FIFA World Cup (cryptonews.net)