Rethinking and refreshing: | Global finance magazine

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Khaled Abbas, Head of Wholesale Banking at Gulf International Bank (GIB), shares his thoughts on how the pandemic is pushing banks to find agile ways to meet business needs.



Global Finance: What lessons have you learned from your response to Covid-19 about GIB’s digital strategy?


Khalid Abbas: While the events of the past few months have helped validate and strengthen the case for a digital approach to business and operations, they have also allowed us to test our readiness and change our digital assumptions and plans. . What started out as a brief hiatus from normal activity is quickly turning into a new normal. A number of our early initiatives on the digital front have accelerated results in light of the Covid-19 situation. From responding to customer needs to assessing risk, fraud and cybersecurity postures, the crisis has been a unique catalyst for a new culture and a new way of thinking.


Priorities have shifted to adopting adaptable and open standards and outcome-based assessments as the workforce moves to an out-of-office environment, and increased provision of the full set of products and customer services as well as internal digital processes. canals. The need to renew the strategic digital objectives more frequently has been clearly demonstrated. One of the main internal challenges was replacing collocated agile teams with virtually connected workgroups that built a collaboration methodology as they worked. Formalizing these structures and sharing key lessons and success factors will be essential to keep thinking, acting and delivering at pace. The crisis has also resulted in a greater focus on collaboration and integration with key agencies and partners to provide last mile integration of digital solutions for consumers as well as businesses.


GF: Please tell us more about these partnerships.


Abbas: GIB continuously assesses and evaluates potential partners in the region and beyond, to enable us to offer the best innovative solutions and services to our current and potential customers. Our partnership model and culture is rooted in the belief that banks can no longer go it alone as they seek to bring innovation to traditionally unbanked or underbanked segments. Teaming up with niche service providers allows GIB to adopt new technologies, markets and segments much faster and also allows us to serve a wider range of businesses and consumers. It also helps to create an internal culture of collaboration. It is a recognition that banks must serve consumers and businesses by meeting their need for quick and fair access to services and capital. The SME [small and midsize enterprise] segment should be one of the cornerstones, because the Kingdom [of Bahrain] seeks to diversify its economy to achieve the goals of its Vision 2030. This is also a segment that has traditionally struggled with financial exclusion.


Our recent partnership with the Social Development Bank and Beehive to provide MSMEs [micro, small and midsize enterprise] the financing was unique in the sense that it brought together not only a technological partner, but also a financial partner with a social vocation, in partnership with GIB. It has also helped fulfill a long-standing desire from our stakeholder community for GIB to be involved in growing and fostering the MSME sector from the start, which we see as a social responsibility to MSMEs. communities in which we operate.


GF: What do you see as the biggest trends in digital corporate banking in the Middle East in 2021?


Abbas: Consumer behavior will continue to drive business needs in the Middle East, as it would in any other market. Given the focus on digital wallets, the cashless society and real-time payments, we plan to follow the main digital banking trends for businesses in 2021: greater openness to electronic payments, greater adoption of open banking and ecosystem-based proposals. This reach will provide banks with the ability to offer on-demand payments in the future and grow online payments much faster compared to ATM or card payments in the coming years. There will be increased adoption of technologies, including machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data, to detect suspicious and fraudulent transactions, as well as to facilitate cashless, contactless and contactless payments.

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