Emirates NBD’s Digital Transformation Journey

In conversation with Sampath Srinivasan, Senior Vice President, Strategic Projects, Emirates NBD

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ENBD has always been at the forefront for digital innovations in banking; what is in store on the digital front for 2017?

Our journey in digital innovation will continue at an accelerated pace. We will be collaborating with the community and tapping the fintech ecosystem to radically transform and create new business opportunities and enhance customer experience.

Our strategy is built on 3 key pillars of Culture, Co-creation, and Community in alignment with UAE’s vision to be one of the most innovative countries in the world.

The main focus of our digital journey will be to meet the expectations of millennials with a multitude of online offerings and enable them to perform almost all transactions online without the need to visit brick-and-mortar branches.  We will also look to automate our back office processes to improve our operational efficiency. The goal will be to achieve quick TAT and increase the percentage of Straight Through Processing.  We will be implementing Robotics technology across several use cases to achieve accuracy, integrity and efficient processing.

We have recently launched our digital bank to address the banking needs of the growing millennial population, which prefers digital channels over brick and mortar branches.  We will be continuously introducing new functionalities in this platform to shape it as a major lifestyle application with minimum banking transactions.  The new digital bank will empower customers to take charge of their finances with the best possible customer experience.

In your opinion, which are the top three technologies that will have a major impact on the banking business models in 2017?

Banks are facing a very uncertain economic environment, and to counter this climate they will have to look at technology as an enabler for innovation. As part of our innovation work-stream we constantly invest in R&D and also study the market on new trends and areas where technology adoption is increasing. Out of various disruptors emerging in the market, following are the ones that are most relevant to our digital strategy and also in line with the trend picking up in the region.

Open API’s will convert banks as a platform for service delivery, and they will be able to partner with third party providers to create contextual offerings for their customer base. We will also see an increase in conversational banking on channels of customer’s choice, such as chatbots on social platforms powered by AI. This will of course be built on the shoulders of data driven insights and will form an important part of delivering a true Omni channel experience from the banks’ perspective.

We anticipate both blockchain and IoT to become mainstream, though it would need a couple of years before it truly matures and benefits are seen.

Security will no longer be a compliance measure, and will be pervasive across the organization. Behavior based bio-metrics will become an integral pillar of the banks’ security strategy and identity management in this aspect. We are also envisioning frictionless experiences to become more prevalent. For example, touchless methods such as NFC will see widespread adoption for physical access to payments use cases.

For some of these technologies we have already identified use cases; and they’re being implemented in the form of either proof-of-concepts or a sample service in production. Our vision is to be more open and allow our partners, government entities, and corporates to utilize our services and also offer some of our services to their end customers.

Could you tell us more about the Emirates NBD-ICICI Bank-EdgeVerve partnership on the blockchain pilot network? What impact are you seeing post launching the pilot and how do you see this partnership shaping up in the future?

Emirates NBD is always known as a first mover to adapt new technologies.  We realized that blockchain is one such technology, which is growing very rapidly and many global financial institutions are investing millions of dollars in researching to implement it. Emirates NBD started exploring blockchain to understand the architecture of this technology and applicable use cases for a financial institution. In order to develop and have a deep understanding of this technology, we invited several vendors to present their solutions and the functionalities. When EdgeVerve presented their solution and explained the use cases, we were able to relate our requirements to these use cases and wanted to examine it further with a sample transaction.  Then ICICI bank expressed similar interest in one of our meetings; consequently, we initiated discussions between both the business and technology teams of ICICI.  We had setup a very aggressive timeline to complete the POC.   Since both the banks were using the same core platform, we quickly formed a team to setup the infrastructure, and install the blockchain application at both banks. And within six weeks we could complete a POC transaction on remittance and open account use case. Now, after launching the pilot and seeing the transaction flow, both the banks are eager to implement this in production and start to execute transactions in real-time. In the initial phase value transfer will continue through traditional channels.

Your bank has also setup an Emirates NBD Future Lab. Tell us more about the objectives behind setting up this lab and which areas are you focusing on with this lab?

Emirates NBD Future Lab is part of our Innovation journey to showcase new technologies.  We have established this in partnership with our vendors.

Future Lab showcases future based scenarios using virtual reality and other partner solutions projecting the futuristic use of technology.

The objective of this lab is to drive our innovation strategy as explained above and to support our digital aspirations by tapping the potential of our own employees, and the external ecosystem.

Emirates NBD Future Lab will be a continuing space to exhibit futuristic and new technologies from our partner ecosystem. Our plan is to create more than one lab and provide multiple opportunities for several vendors to exhibit their inventions.

Tell us about the top three initiatives that were immensely successful for Emirates NBD in 2016

Emirates NBD Future Lab was a great success and we will be replicating this model into few more branches.

Emirates NBD Pay, which is an idea for contactless payments has been another major success and with UAE being a tech savvy country, we are seeing quick adoption of this application by our customers.

The blockchain pilot, which has generated lot of interest not only within the bank, but also with several government entities and other non-financial institutions was a great success story.

And we are in dialogue with several departments with varied use cases to be implemented and processed through blockchain.