Enduring Partnership

Colin Dallas, Head of Retail at National Bank of Fujairah explains that seeing themselves as a financial partner for clients, reflects how important customer loyalty is to them and with this in mind, their approach to ongoing innovation in banking is to build long-lasting successful partnerships with customers.

What key actions should the region’s retail banks take to ensure they thrive in the near to medium term? 

Retails banks play an important role to further place the country on the right track towards economic recovery. As we move ahead, innovation and digital transformation will continue to be on the top priority list of most banks.

The UAE is not a newcomer to the digital age; rather, innovation sits at the centre of the country’s vision for the future. In addition, the young generation has a lot to do with impacting the existing landscape. Mobile wallets and cashless payments have now become second nature across the country. What is now required more than ever is for retail banks to internalise and accelerate the current trends and stay agile and nimble in order to fit into the new mould of this digital age.

While doing so, banks should maintain client-centricity at the heart of their digital initiatives. Any digital offerings will need to respond to client needs and preferences instead of responding to trends. In addition, banks need to consider the adoption and acceleration of ESG as carbon footprint and issues related to climate change continue to become key priorities in the business agenda across sectors and industries.

At NBF, we see ourselves as a financial partner for clients across their professional and business needs. Although many have seen an acceleration in digital transformation plans as a result of the pandemic, we have been on this path long before. In fact, we have made significant advancements in digitization resulting in improvements in customer experience, enhanced efficiency through automation and optimisation, improved security and better resilience.  We are also at the forefront of many of the country’s efforts to become a cashless society, as we have partnered with the Ministry of Finance to launch eDirham Instant, the latest digital payment method that allows customers to pay for governmental fees and services using online banking. We also went live with the Emirates Digital Wallet ‘klip’, a cashless payment application that allows customers to store, transfer and conduct payments in a seamless and secure manner.

That said, banks are required to maintain caution to navigate an ever-evolving environment and unprecedented risks and challenges. At NBF, we believe we can achieve this by leveraging our multi-sector expertise and acting as the financial partner for our clients.

We also realize that from time-to-time customers require the personal touch of experienced relationship managers due to their more complex requirements. Subsequently, NBF’s approach is a blend of digitization for day-to-day client interactions where speed & efficiencies are the key drivers and the human interaction to handle more complex issues.

How will the co-existence of legacy retail banks and neo banks evolve in the coming years?

Legacy retail banks and Neo banks are co-existing in a competitive market. We still live in a multi-generational time in which both options are in demand due to their distinct offerings.

Neo banks will have their own set of customers of course, where traditional retail banks still enjoy a wide customer base and not only offer the digital services and products but also ensure that human touch is still present in the customer experience journey. Traditional retail banks will need to adapt and evolve to meet the next generation’s demands that revolves around digital experiences and efficiencies, speed of processing etc. that digitization offers.

Are new developments in retail customer onboarding nearing their limits or is there room for further innovation?

There’s always a room for innovation. In 2022, banks will seek to embrace a future-fit technology strategy and accelerate their end-to-end digital transformation to compete and navigate an increasingly unpredictable, post-pandemic world. The future is about leveraging innovation in an aim to build business resilience, and more importantly long-lasting successful partnerships with customers. In addition, with technology advancing at a fast pace, it is difficult to make hard plans in to what to introduce in the medium term, and therefore NBF has to remain flexible to incorporate new ideas as they emerge, such as biometric authentication for processing payments, the movement of traditional payment schemes such as cheques, remittances, payment orders etc, to instant digital platforms.

In a time of more options and easier onboarding, how are you encouraging customer loyalty?

Customer loyalty is a critical element that we take very seriously at NBF. It took more than just a brand name to build a long-term and strong relationships over the years at NBF, with the trust sitting at the centre.

It is true that the financial services market is becoming increasingly competitive in the digital era, however, NBF’s swift response to the developments we have seen on the market was a key factor in our customer retention over the years.

Adding to that, NBF’s customer service excellence coupled with our bespoke and differentiated customer experience boosted our customer loyalty. Customers increasingly demand 24/7 access to their finances through the channels that accommodate their communications preferences not only to retail, but also in the corporate and business category; our response to this was the launch of the digital platform NBFX to provide customers round-the-clock access to finance trading transactions.

We consider loyalty to be an extension of swift and efficient customer service. By using technology to meet the ever-increasing customer demands, we believe we maintain client trust and subsequently their loyalty as customers know they can rely on NBF.

During this period of ongoing digitisation how are you managing the generational differences between your customers?

There is no doubt that generational differences do exist between customers and are considered across the range of our product portfolio. NBF Ajyal, for instance, is built with the needs of the Emirati young generation in mind.

One common thread across all generations is the adoption of technology as part of customers’ daily life.  To date, more than 70 per cent of the bank’s customers of all age groups have transitioned from traditional to online banking. Now, we can see the customer’s demand is rising and so we are onboarding our offerings across all channels that can be a potential use of any age and to make sure are covering all generations. Within this generation, we have mapped out our customers in a form of groups that we cater to through our customised approach. That means we carefully study the needs of each group, their preferred channels, tendencies and what will serve their financial well-being in order to provide tailored technology-backed services that suit this group’s specific requirements.