If you are out and about and have forgotten to pay your credit card bill, help is at hand. Yes, you could call phone banking or log onto your online account but to make it even simpler why not make the payment on your bank’s mobile app?
With the nation increasingly reliant on mobile phones, banks know they must embrace new technology to reach their customers. From drive-thru bank branches to new accounts opened on tablets and more, financial institutions are increasingly aware that providing digital services not only helps them keep up with their competitors but also ensures they gain and then retain new customers.
Mobile penetration and usage in the UAE is among the highest in the world. According to a recent survey by Bain & Company, 15 per cent of UAE consumers said they used smartphones, tablets and computers for their daily transactions. And 40 per cent of respondents said using online or mobile banking would be their preferred way to bank.
To take advantage of this shift in the way customers carry out banking transactions – a shift that is even more apparent among wealthier customers who demand even more direct channels with their bank – financial institutions need to move fast to ensure they are keeping up with the pack.
As a result, numerous UAE banks have launched mobile banking apps, allowing customers to manage their bank accounts from their smartphones – carrying out basic transactions such as checking balances, paying bills and transferring money.
An end to bank branches?
But as technology and mobile banking evolves, does this mean branches could die out as consumers carry out all their transactions on their mobile phones? Well, perhaps one day but certainly not just yet.
A bank considering an app would be wrong to assume that simply having an app available is enough to keep their customers happier. They need to ensure their app is safe, secure and effective. While providing an app that allows a customer to see how much is in their account is great, not offering the facility to make bank transfers or pay credit card or utility bills is not. In other words, customers want the same transaction options on their phone as they have online or in a branch.
How a premier app offering will help banks progress is easy to see. There will be less bank visits as customers handle more and more of their transactions remotely. There’s no doubt it’s far more convenient to pay a credit card or transfer cash while on the go. After all, who wants to drive 20 minutes to the nearest bank branch when they could simply tap away on their smartphone.
How traditional banking will evolve
In recent months the UAE Central Bank and the telecoms providers etisalat and du have agreed to work together on mobile banking technology to make mobile banking more accessible, easier and cheaper.
This will help to boost this area of customer service. But before you panic, fearing that your nearest bank branch will close tomorrow, relax. Yes, branches may be downsized with less physical customer service staff on hand instead allowing customers to carry out transactions through self-service machines or virtual banking terminals that connect them to advisers onscreen. But advisers will still be needed to assist customers with more complicated procedures such as a complaint or a mortgage or loan approval. And of course someone will have to be nearby to help customers struggling to operate these new technology intensive branches!
Remember banks can only more forward if their customers want to. According to a survey by the banking software solutions provider SunGard, 95 per cent of respondents from six nations across the Middle East including the UAE, still regularly visit their local bank branch. Interestingly though, when asked what improvements they would like to see, more than four in ten said they wanted better mobile banking services from their financial institution. Perhaps one day we will never need to go to the bank again.