Leading Saudi Arabia’s Digital Banking Revolution: Arab National Bank’s Journey with Infosys Finacle

Naif Alharbi, Chief Information Officer at Arab National Bank talks about their digital vision and strategy to lead in the market, with Sriranga Sampathkumar, Vice President and General Manager – Middle East and Africa at Infosys Finacle.

In the shifting sands of Saudi Arabia, where the winds of change blow with the force of Vision 2030, Arab National Bank (ANB) stands as a beacon of digital transformation in the Kingdom’s financial landscape. As the Kingdom charts its course towards a tech-forward future, ANB emerges not just as a participant but as a leader, actively shaping the contours of digital banking in the region.

In a conversation with Naif Alharbi, the bank’s Chief Information Officer, Sriranga Sampathkumar, Vice President and General Manager – Middle East and Africa, Infosys delves into ANB’s visionary strategy, meticulously designed to navigate the digital terrain and emerge victorious. With an unwavering focus on innovation and customer-centricity, ANB is poised to redefine the banking experience, leveraging advanced technologies and strategic partnerships to drive unprecedented growth and success.

Sriranga N Sampathkumar, VP and General Manager – MEA, Infosys Ltd

Sriranga: I sincerely thank you, Mr. Naif Alharbi, for generously dedicating your time to this interview. I’m thrilled about having an insightful discussion ahead. To start with, tell us about your vision for ANB and how do you plan to succeed with scaling digital transformations?

Naif: Before delving into our vision, let’s zoom out and examine how we’ve been bolstering our digital banking initiatives. In early 2021, our focus shifted towards accelerating growth and making a significant impact in line with Vision 2030. Our mission is not only to keep pace but to lead in several critical areas.

To achieve corporate leadership, our goal is to become the preferred bank for large and mid-corporates. As an SME champion, we aim to emerge as the premier bank for SMEs in KSA. Targeting mass market growth, we’re expanding to cater to broader segments. To achieve affluent market dominance, our aim is to lead in serving KSA’s affluent customers. Being a capital market player, we strive to be top contenders in capital markets with ANBI.

It’s essential to note that technology isn’t just part of our strategy; it’s the foundation of everything we do. We’ve developed an evolving tech ecosystem that’s as dynamic as the market itself. To this effect, the bank has a three-pronged strategy: one, to embrace modern tech architecture and open systems that adapt swiftly; two, smart tech delivery, refining our approach to implementing tech solutions for effectiveness and timeliness; and three, to attract and retain the best IT talent to maintain our competitive edge.

Looking ahead, we envision ANB becoming a transformative leader in banking innovation. By leveraging advanced technologies such as AI, Cloud and big data analytics, we enhance service levels and operational efficiency. This tech-driven approach not only enhances customer experiences but also positions us as pivotal players in the banking industry’s transformation.

Sriranga: How are the evolving demands of customers in Saudi shaping ANB’s digital strategy to meet their needs?

Naif: It’s no exaggeration to say that Saudi Arabia is sprinting ahead in the global digital banking race. As reinforced under Saudi’s Vision 2030 program, the country aims for cashless payments to make up 70 percent of the total by 2025 — effectively leading the charge in the Middle East for digital banking adoption. Saudi Arabia is all about digital. Indeed, with over three-quarters of the kingdom’s banking customers already embracing online and mobile platforms for their financial transactions, the bar is set high for meeting the expectations of our tech-savvy customers.

In alignment with Saudi Arabia’s vision for a cashless society by 2030, we at ANB are pushing the boundaries just as aggressively. We’re not just keeping pace; we’re setting the pace. Our digital banking isn’t static—it’s dynamic. We recently gave our mobility solution a major facelift and continue to roll out new features almost monthly. This relentless innovation underscores our commitment to transforming our digital services to not only meet but exceed the growing needs of our digitally-advanced customers.

Sriranga: What factors influenced your decision to adopt Finacle Core Banking and what was your IT transformation strategy to make this a success?

Naif: As highlighted in my response regarding our vision, we are committed to leading in digital transformation. A crucial part of this commitment has been modernising our legacy systems to not only achieve our business goals but to drive the industry forward. The core of this transformation is adopting a modern, flexible and open architecture. That’s exactly why we chose Finacle Core Banking. Its latest version offers a componentised, API-driven architecture that aligns perfectly with our needs.

Our IT transformation strategy was clear from the start: integrate Finacle seamlessly to enhance our service delivery and operational efficiency. By leveraging its advanced features, we’ve been able to innovate faster, deliver services more efficiently and provide a superior customer experience that keeps us at the forefront of the banking sector.

Sriranga: In what way was the adoption of an open, API-driven, and componentised architecture help power your business?

Naif: In my previous response, I touched upon our strategic shift towards a modern, flexible and open architecture at ANB. This isn’t merely an upgrade; it’s revolutionising how we operate. Here’s why this open, API-driven and componentised architecture is a game-changer for us:

  • Innovative Front-Ends: We’ve reimagined our customer interfaces to be more vibrant and user-friendly. Our open tech stack allows for an intuitive banking experience that evolves with customer needs, ensuring every interaction is seamless.
  • Efficient Back-Ends: We’ve overhauled our legacy systems, drastically reducing the time to launch new digital features. This efficiency boost means we can speed products to market faster than ever, staying ahead in a competitive landscape.
  • Expanded Third-Party Ecosystem: Our new architecture facilitates smoother connections with third-party services, significantly broadening our ecosystem. This not only enhances our service offerings but also adds incredible value for our clients.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Our robust data architecture goes beyond mere data collection; it transforms data into actionable insights. This strategic use of data drives smarter business decisions and ramps up our operational efficiency.

Overall, this architectural transformation empowers us to respond dynamically to market demands, innovate continuously and maintain a competitive edge in the digital banking era.

Sriranga: How do you intend to enhance scalability and resilience of your bank to capitalise on opportunities in digital payments?

Naif: Payment innovation isn’t just on our agenda at ANB—it’s leading the charge as we pivot towards a cashless economy. We’re not merely joining the digital payment revolution; we’re spearheading it. Our strategy? Offering a diverse and robust range of payment options that cater to our clients’ needs, from real-time settlements to a comprehensive suite of payment products.

With Saudi payment transactions poised to grow at over 8% annually and digital commerce projected to exceed USD 40 billion by 2025, the opportunity for ANB to strengthen our market presence is tremendous. We’re dedicated to delivering payment solutions that are not just reliable but also scalable and resilient.

Our tactical approach harnesses the latest in Open Banking and Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) innovations. By enhancing our platform and broadening our ecosystem, we’re doing more than just integrating our solutions into client operations—we’re revolutionising the way these integrations improve their experiences. This strategic move boosts both the scalability and resilience of our payment systems and places us in an ideal position to seize the growing opportunities in digital payments, ensuring ANB remains at the cutting edge of this dynamic field.

Sriranga: What were the reasons for choosing Infosys Finacle as a partner and how do you see this partnership evolving?

Naif: Choosing Infosys as our partner was a strategic decision, influenced by their extensive experience in delivering innovative banking solutions. Our long-standing relationship with Infosys has fostered a deep understanding between our teams. This mutual comprehension has been crucial as they align well with our goals and overall vision.

Through this partnership, we leverage their technological expertise, which includes componentised and API-driven architectures, enhancing our operational scalability and our ability to serve our clients effectively. As we move forward, I anticipate this partnership will continue to evolve, adapting to new technological advancements and further enriching our service offerings, ensuring that ANB remains at the forefront of banking innovation.

Sriranga: As we conclude our insightful discussion, I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Naif for his valuable insights and vision. It’s been a pleasure exploring the innovative strides ANB is taking in the digital banking realm. I eagerly anticipate our continued collaboration and the achievement of more milestones together.