We have noticed a drastic change in the way OAB operates over the past few years. What has brought forth this change?
Just under three years ago, Oman Arab Bank (OAB) began a journey that would see it transform itself from a largely traditional bank into one of the most technologically advanced and customer-centric retail banks in the country. The key driving force behind our transformation was our passion to deliver exceptional customer experience.
As a financial services institution we understand that in order to provide this service we have to ensure we innovate. To achieve this, we not only aimed to leverage existing technology to its fullest, but also to develop new solutions which have never been seen in the market. We have been actively building these services with simplicity and customer convenience as the driving force.
What singular system or component of the bank’s operations, in your opinion, has seen the most drastic change or advancement as a result of your transformation strategy?
That would have to be our new omnichannel digital banking platform, which we launched in 2017 and is of the key pillars of our retail innovation strategy and bank transformation. This new platform was designed with the sole aim of offering customers an advanced, yet easy to use, online banking experience regardless of which device they prefer to use.
Based on our research on customer adoption, we developed an over simplified and secure user interface which is consistent across all devices and services, from ATMs to computers. This user-based approach continues in our OAB Mobile Phone Application—OAB Online—which was launched alongside the online banking platform.
Because our platform is unified, our customers are able to access their OAB accounts through any platform using the same login information. Our online banking platform was designed for ease of use, and not only incorporates payment functionalities such as financial transfers and bill payments, but also services such as statements through email, card limit change, donations, school fee payments and more.
We want our customers to have a seamless experience, from branch to call centre to digital interface, and our omnichannel digital banking platform is the framework that helps us make this a reality.
More recently, Near-Field Communication (NFC) technology has been gaining traction. What has OAB done on this front?
NFC has been a key area of focus within the bank for some time now. The implementation of which is something that we have been building up to since the technology became widely used in the rest of the world. We replaced all our cards to contactless-enabled cards during 2017 as the first bank to do so in Oman.
On the merchant side, we have been issuing new point of sales to our merchants on an ongoing basis. With a firm number of customers in place, we decided it was the right time to launch contactless payment services in Oman. This is why in January this year we officially launched our contactless service, starting with ‘Tap & Go’ at our ATMs.
Using a contactless card, customers can now carry out ATM transactions by simply tapping their cards on any of our new ATMs. Contactless transactions are much faster and drastically reduce queueing time at ATMs, as there is no need to insert the card into the machine.
Whilst saving on time, the transactions are still fully secure and follow international industry security standards. Furthermore, as part of our drive to replace old debit cards we became the first bank in Oman to provide an instant NFC-enabled card issuance service form our branches.
In a world where we have come to expect instant results, it seems strange to have to wait two weeks for a new payment card to arrive in the post. Today, when a customer requires a new card or opens a new bank account, they can walk out of their branch with their card in hand.
What other key advancements has the bank witnessed as part of its innovation and transformation strategy?
Shortly after the omnichannel digital banking platform, we also launched the new robotic process automation system—another first in the Sultanate. The robotic process automation system allows for the transferring of a number of the bank’s day-to-day operations and processes to ‘robots’ that carry out the tasks without human intervention.
In doing so, it helps increase productivity and reduces the possibilities of errors; whilst at the same time enhancing efficiency and speed thanks to a certified performance evaluation system. The automation this system provides extends to processes related to account management, approval of loans, and cards’ operations, in addition to issues related to compliance and financial risks management, cyberrisks, procurement and supply, finance, accounting, and other daily processes of banks.
Even with these advanced systems in place, we have no intention of stopping. This year alone, in addition to our NFC services, we also launched biometric authentication for our app as well as an instant reward points redemption feature at OAB point of sales machines.
The latter feature allows any OAB customer making purchases from participating merchants to pay, completely or partially, using their accumulated OAB reward points. We have been aggressively expanding our retail presence across the Sultanate in recent years, offering our POS services at major retailers and supermarkets wherever possible.
What is OAB doing to promote innovation amongst its staff as well as the community?
Right from the very beginning we knew that our innovation journey shouldn’t solely rely on technology and we understand we have to invest heavily in our human capital and the community in order to not only remain competitive, but to look after our future talent.
This is why, over the last two years we have implemented an extensive training programme, identifying talent within the organisation and training them to become tomorrow’s leaders. We also organise an annual innovation hub, identifying talent and opportunities externally and participate in regular workshops with industry thought leaders such Barclays and Harvard.
We will also be establishing a first-ofits-kind innovation lab in the region at our headquarters to further push our innovation agenda forward.
We have noticed that a number of your branches have undergone a drastic change in recent years, each featuring an entirely new look. What can a customer expect when visiting one of these new branches?
We recognise that our branches are usually the first place where we welcome our customers, this is why the transformation of our branch network was amongst our first objectives of our new retail-focused strategy. Furthermore, each of these transformed branches feature more than just our enhanced brand identity and a refreshed look.
Each of them is further enhanced by a number of innovative features and systems. This includes a new meet and greet facility with an efficient queuing system, private advisory spaces for more personal interaction, digital signature pads, and ID card readers. Additionally, the flagship versions of our new branches all provide dedicated ‘Elite’ services to cater for our premium customers.
These ‘branches within a branch’ deliver an elegant and private experience which remains memorable. Our branch transformation is an ongoing process and so far we have seen the transformation of 15 branches, with the others being updated in due course.
What do you see as the way forward for your innovation and transformation journey?
Each of the new systems and services we have launched over the past few years have propelled us onto a path of becoming one of the most innovative, technology savvy, and customer-centric banks in the country.
The banking system is ever evolving and in order to become even better, we fully intend stay at the helm of using technology to enable richer customer experiences. We are moving into developing predictive analytics capabilities for greater personalisation of offers, extending our services into open banking creating a richer ecosystem for our customers, and investing in staff to ready them for the future of banking.
We will continue to innovate and develop our products and services especially in the digital space, pushing the envelope even further with every new service or functionality we introduce.