Pandemic forces banks to deliver innovative services

MANAMA: Banks are being pushed to deliver innovative services quickly during the current Covid-19 conditions as the technology adoption cycle has been skewed in favour of early adopters, a banking expert revealed during a webinar last week.

During a traditional technology adoption model, 16 per cent of users including innovators and early adopters are among the quickest to test a new technological feature, followed by a gradual uptake by the rest. Since the first 16pc are more forgiving of bugs and glitches as long as the technology is promising, the chasm between this group and the larger user base gives companies time to introduce and test new features and technologies before they are adopted by the larger user base.

Speaking online with a community of startup entrepreneurs and enthusiasts, Subah Al Zayani, chief executive of the retail division of National Bank of Bahrain (NBB), revealed: “What has happened under the Covid-19 pandemic is that the graph has been skewed. Now the bulk of users start using new features along with the early adopters and the early majority.

“The risk that comes with it is that banks no longer have the time to gradually introduce features and fine-tune as people adapt. We have to deliver services quickly that work for everyone.”

This shift in technological adoption comes as banks have had to rely on online and on mobile applications to deliver services, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Banks like NBB have unveiled upgraded online and mobile platforms as well as advanced Android-based point-of-sale (POS) systems since the onset of the pandemic.

Mr Al Zayani noted: “It has been challenging with the unprecedented impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Agility has been crucial for the safekeeping and enhancement of our clients’ lifestyle during this very difficult period, especially with regards to loan deferrals. This showcases that banks are not these large rigid machines; they are actually agile and ready to move swiftly if required.”

A number of banks have continued to roll out open banking services, allowing customers to link and view multiple accounts using a single application. Banks have also been increasing limits for contactless POS transactions that do not require entry of a PIN code.

The last few months have seen an uptick in the adoption of electronic payment systems, with e-wallet provider BenefitPay announcing a 1,257pc increase in the number of remittances, worth about BD103 million, through the Fawri+ service in March.

Mr Al Zayani added: “As we move forward, banks will need to leverage fintech services to deliver robust and easily scalable customer experiences. Clients have come to expect highly engaging experiences, as a result of what the big tech companies have been delivering. Banks will have to build platforms that proactively engage customers to positively impact their lifestyles, rather than just being service-oriented.”




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