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‘Digital Spring’ and Its Impact on Banking in the Emirates As The Emirates ups the ante on mobile internet, M2M, cloud technology and embraces future generation genomics, the banking sector obviously is feeling the positive reverberations. The moment bank accounts dropped in nicely on our smart phones, banking was revolutionized. What has happened since then is constant evolution. And the banks which fail to keep up with the evolution will suffer. Consumer Driven: Just like most services, banking is, was and always will be consumer driven. And so, as consumer digital technology continues to revamp itself, banks would have to follow suit. Consumers are embracing smart phone technology, and as that evolves, banking would have to continue transforming itself to meet the consumer needs. With the Middle East, and of course the UAE, collectively exploring smart phone technology, banks would now have to work on ensuring that they have the latest technology in place that caters to the ever changing needs . The digital revolution, spearheaded by smart phones and tablets, is massively influencing consumer behavior. If technology is dictating lifestyles, social lives, where everyone’s dining out, how we shop and pay bills to educating us about our surroundings, it will also dictate our preferred means of transaction. And consumers are indeed driving the mobile banking, and as long as the consumer is at the driver’s seat, any banks not keeping themselves up to date would perish into extinction… Digital Spring: Around 85 percent of the world’s population uses mobile phones, according to a United Nations study. And a look towards the Arab world reveals that the Middle East – and the Emirates in particular – is increasingly becoming more tech savvy. A GSMA research revealed 391 million mobile connections in the Arab world alone at the tail end of the year 2012. This is a hike of 2,000 percent over the past 10 years! And the region’s ever escalating numbers point to what can undoubtedly be dubbed the Digital Spring in the Middle East. Spearheading this Digital Spring undoubtedly is UAE where 75 percent of the population owns a smart phone, which is the highest smart phone user percentage in the world. And just like most revolutionary ‘springs’ the vanguard of the Digital Spring also happens to be the youth of the UAE, with those under the age of 34 showcasing the highest percentage of smart phone users. The same age group also pointed to smart phones as their preferred device according to a Cisco survey. Even so, while the youth might be orchestrating the Digital Spring, all age groups are making the most of mobile technology. According to Analysys Mason, 87 percent of the people in the Arab world use tablets or smart phones to connect to the internet. Banking on the Internet:


The lion’s share of UAE’s population is ‘banking’ on their smart phones to make their banking smoother and quicker. In a recent interview to Khaleej Times, Aref Al Ramli, who is the head of electronic business and innovation at Mashreq Bank stated, “Eighty-seven per cent of Mashreq’s financial transactions in retail banking in the UAE are carried out by electronic [mobile and Internet] banking,” And this is merely an extrapolation of people’s transactional practices since a lot of them now prefer to use digital technology to browse for products and shop online as well. Now that the traditional ‘window shopping’ can be done through smart phones as well, customer satisfaction in banking also lies in the utilization of their devices to complete all transactions in minimal time and with minimum effort. This includes both shopping and banking transactions. What the current generation needs is banking that is instant, hassle free and if need be, on the go as well. Internet banking has revolutionized how the people of UAE want to bank, by ensuring that banking transactions are swifter and less tedious. And hence it’s now up to the banks to beef up their customer experience. The Winning Solution: Mere internet presence would be the equivalent of breathing in the banking realm. The banks now need to make sure that the consumers’ banking experience on the web is prompt, engaging and delivers on all promises as effortlessly as possible. Because as the consumer is being spoiled by technology with every passing moment, they can dump the current service for another one within the blink of an eye. So the winning solution for internet banking lies in creating a dynamic website, with consistent – and user-friendly – interfaces, which works seamlessly on all devices. And of course when it comes to banking, aesthetics are supplanted by customer experience and engagement. Coming up with a mobile app could lay the foundation of a winning strategy, but this needs to be backed up by blending in interaction and fluidity of services. Social media, of course, can prove pivotal here. And it still remains untapped by the banking sector. And so, the winning solution for digital banking isn’t just about the XHTML / HTML5 templates that support CSS and JavaScript any longer. As banks incorporate social media into customer service, it’s going to be as much about your Twitter handle monitoring your customers’ queries and answering them as swiftly as possible.


‘Digital Spring’ and Its Impact on Banking in the Emirates