Founder: Emirates NBD – IT Digitalization De...

Founder: Emirates NBD – IT Digitalization Department

– What fintech trends do you predict will take hold first in the GCC? And how is Emirates NBD preparing for them?

The combined impact of increased purchasing power, government and regulatory support and high smartphone penetration have all contributed to the development of FinTechs across the GCC. This is a promising start for the region’s FinTechs but they still represent only one percent of the overall global FinTech investment.

Specifically, the key trending areas for FinTechs are in the areas of payments, lending, blockchain, “regtech” and AI-robotics.

Starting with payments, despite high smartphone penetration and the UAE’s advanced economy, the majority of UAE transactions are still cash-based. Fintechs have thronged the market with solutions for wallets, collections and e-commerce, and they seemingly have a very high potential for growth.

In terms of SME and lending, this is another high potential area given the UAE is a very SME-driven economy. However, support from conventional lending solutions can waver, as reflected by the fact that SME loans typically represent just two percent of total bank loans across the GCC. This is among the lowest in the world. Any solutions providing SMEs with easy access to fund will deliver a significant impact and so too will those that help increase their operational efficiency or accelerate growth.

When it comes to “RegTech,” with a majority expatriate population and strong links to the USA and United Kingdom, the UAE is following the regulations required to become effective in these markets. FinTechs that are helping financial intuitions and companies to comply with these regulations may also have high potential for partnerships.

Lastly, Blockchain is a much discussed topic in the UAE given it is traditionally a trade-driven economy where fulfilling processes and flows involves a multi-party ecosystem. Also, when looking at Islamic lending facilities, this involves different parties for Sharia compliance. Blockchain solutions are becoming a natural and effective solution for multi-party involved use-cases with a decentralized approach. In particular, it can play a significant role in driving growth in Islamic banking.

For all of these emerging FinTech areas, Emirates NBD’s new Group Digital Office has a dedicated FinTech team, dedicated to driving engagement and partnerships with the broader FinTech community. The team identifies and evaluates opportunities based on Emirates NBD’s priorities and client needs. Together with the Digital Office’s dedicated Research and Development team, we have now partnered with both local and international bodies like DIFC Fintech Hive, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Motive Partners.


– How has digital disruption changed your approach to customer service?

In many ways, digital disruption is driven by our customers and how they now interact with their technology. From a banking perspective, our goal is to firstly understand how our customers interact with their technology, and how their current and future expectations for a digital experience can be met by us as their financial services provider. Design-led thinking is a critical component of this understanding.

One of the most obvious ways we see banks adapting their approach to enhancing their digital service is in departing from the traditional Bank To Customer (B2C) model towards a Customer To Bank (C2B) model.

This means providing financial services where the customer is digitally and when they need that service. Practically speaking, this means being embedded across multiple digital platforms and services. This ensures a bank’s products and services are digitally available when and how its clients expect. With that comes a blurring of the traditional branch, website and mobile view of banking organizations.


– How has big data and analytics allowed you to transform operations within your bank?

Emirates NBD has a strong focus on Big Data, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Advanced Analytics as part of its continued AED 1 billion IT transformation. Critically, this includes building an Enterprise Data Platform (EDP) built on Big Data technologies like Apache Hadoop and Kafka, as well as an AI Model Management and Deployment Platform.

Combined, these two platforms will enable a single access point and single version of truth for all internal and external Emirates NBD data on a real-time basis. To enable our digital ambitions, it also provides a platform where predictive and prescriptive AI models can be deployed to gain value from this data at scale.

Through this, this will transform three key areas of banking. Firstly, the customer experience and service will be hyper-personalized by ensuring the right message and offer is delivered to a customer at the right time and through the right channel, including new channels like Chatbots. Secondly, it will enhance financial crime detection and prevention through the use of predictive AI models in real time. Thirdly, risk management will also be improved through the introduction of real-time predictive and prescriptive credit risk models that are built on both traditional and alternative data sources.


– How is Emirates NBD ramping up its security systems ahead of world totally connected by the Internet of Things (IoT)?

 With the rise of the IoT and with an increasing volume of our processes and customer interactions becoming digitized, fraud detection and prevention is becoming ever more challenging.

We are building and investing in AI based anti-fraud solutions underpinned by three pillars; know your customer, know your device and know your transaction. The combination of these three pillars ensures a secure, authorized transaction.

A cornerstone of all three pillars is ensuring the right data in real-time is fed into predictive anti-fraud AI models. Their purpose is to verify the identity of each customer and their device at any given interaction/transaction point, while flagging suspicious devices and customer registrations, and anomalies in transactions.

Additionally, Emirates NBD is partnering with FinTech’s to implement innovative customer authentication technologies based on behavior biometrics.


– In ten years time, how might UAE banking look totally different because of digital disruption?

In 2028, retail banking and financial services will be widely invisible to our customers in the same way that paying for an Uber or Careem service is now. Through frictionless payments, integrated API’s biometrics, digital identity and FinTech innovation, this evolution is guaranteed.

Interestingly however, in ten years for wealth management, as well as corporate, commercial and business banking we will see the opposite happening. With the evolution of smart technology, AI, gamification, connectivity and technology ecosystems, we expect that the traditionally more complex aspects of financial services will now become more exposed for the non-retail sector.

These interactions will not look like we have traditionally thought about financial services. Rather, we will see a more seamless experience with the boundaries blurring between banking and investment products with tax, legal, human resources, payroll, risk, fraud, ecommerce, business analysis, insurance and acquisition products.


Source: Emirates NBD – Digitalization Department.