Mashreq Bank: Mobile is enabling completely new capabilities in banking

Head of Retail Banking Subroto Som explains how mobile banking and fintech collaboration are enabling unique innovations to improve the customer experience

December 8, 2016

The UAE’s smartphone penetration is among the highest in the world, and financial service providers have rapidly capitalised on this platform to differentiate their offering. Subroto Som, Head of Retail Banking Group for Mashreq Bank, explains how competitive and advanced the UAE’s banking industry is in terms of technology offering. The paradigm of mobile banking has shifted from replicating existing banking functions, he explains, to enabling brand new capabilities. For Mashreq, driving these innovations is a team of engineers, designers, data scientists and business analysts, all focused on easing customer pain points. Finally he suggests that traditional banks collaborating with new fintech players could drive even better customer experience and improve financial inclusion.

World Finance: The UAE’s smartphone penetration is among the highest in the world, and financial service providers have rapidly capitalised on this platform to differentiate their offering. Subroto Som from the UAE’s Mashreq Bank joins me now.

How competitive is the UAE’s banking sector in terms of technology offering?

Subroto Som: Very competitive is how I’ll start! There are over 50 banks which operate in the UAE, out of which over 36 work in the retail space. This is across 3.5 million consumers, and about 12 million cards.

Of the 36 retail banks that operate there, almost 25 of them offer an online platform, and about 16 of them offer an online and mobile platform.

In the UAE, even today more than 75 percent of transactions happen through cash. So as you will see, there is a huge opportunity going forward. There is new development coming into customers’ hands almost every day, and that makes it very exciting.

World Finance: How advanced is this technological offering, then? And talk to me about your app, Snapp Mobile: what’s new there?

Subroto Som: Technologically, not all the platforms are equally capable, from a customer’s perspective. Three or four of them are quite advanced, and Mashreq is one of the leading ones.

Snapp is very intuitive, trendy, and customer-centric. The app integrates the mobile banking for banking, for cards, for rewards platform, for various information that the bank sends to the customer in form of notifications.

It’s been continuously evolved over time: we integrated with Siri to give simple instructions to remit money on voice recognition. If you have lost your card, you want to immediately block it, and if you can’t find it, you will actually ask for a replacement, and if you find it you will unblock the card. You may want to restrict the maximum size of a transaction on a card, the number of transactions in a day, your supplementary card holders – who can spend how much at a time. All of this is possible through Snapp.

We have gone beyond what is possible in banking, that you offer on mobile.

World Finance: And how about with corporates and SMEs? How are businesses going mobile?

Subroto Som: We have a dedicated app, Mashreq Edge, for our larger corporates which operate out of multiple countries. It has very sophisticated controls about authorisation, tokenisation, and verification for transactions.

We also have an extension of Snapp – what we call SnappBiz – which is targeted at small business entrepreneurs. You can initiate a transaction on the online platform, and you can complete it on the mobile platform. It also allows one particular transaction to be completed by two or three different people, because in many cases companies need multiple levels of authorisation. It allows you to track where the transaction is.

This SnappBiz has just been launched – we are the first bank to launch a specific, SME-based mobile banking application in the market. I do see this to be a big driver of transactions for SMEs.

World Finance: Talk me through the learning curve of producing these apps; what’s been the process there?

Subroto Som: The biggest thing is, we have a team – not comprised of bankers – these are engineers, analysts, designers, a set of data scientists and business analysts who actually review all the transactions that are taking place in our network. Whose focus is: customer convenience, customer pain points, and how to find a solution better.

We work with this team, along with our technology partners. We have a team dedicated in Bangalore. We have vendors in London and Milan with which we work. And I think it is that very close teamwork that makes a difference. Because we are able to respond quickly, we are able to make changes quickly, we are able to bring things very quickly. And that I think is the key to the development.

World Finance: Finally, what do you see as the next step in digital banking?

Subroto Som: Mobile banking was about: what you did in normal banking, you brought to the mobile. You will now have capabilities in mobile and digital banking that do not exist in normal banking.

Second, we have seen and heard a lot of fintech come into the space, bringing enormous value to the customer and experience. And I feel in the next phase, fintechs and banks will work closely, to reduce pain points and bring better customer experience.

Third, what digital and mobile and banking is bringing, will actually improve financial inclusion to a large extent.

I’m excited about the opportunities. And while it brings new competition, it also creates opportunity to address consumer needs in a very different way. So good times are ahead of us.

World Finance: Som, thank you very much.

Subroto Som: Thank you very much; nice talking to you.