Written By: Luke Tuffin, Biz Group, Training Consultant

For a long time, bank customers in this region have resisted changing their bank. 

survey for Arabian Business found that 67 percent of UAE expatriate account holders still operate the primary bank account they first opened after landing in the country.

But this is changing fast.  Mergers and consolidations are bringing in new opportunities, along with banks launching their own brands to appeal to millennials and Generation Z.

In Saudi Arabia, SAMA has mandated that every customer has the right to switch banks.  So customers are beginning to flex their change muscle and stir up the market.  What drives them to action?

Reason 1: Rates – and what they are worth

Rates are always a big talking point.  Customers are price conscious of course.  But the complex offers and benefits are rarely explained.  How often do bankers communicate the total cost of ownership for a mortgage for example, and then compare it with the benefits?  The modern banker needs to be equipped to have a positive transparent conversation that pulls the customer in by revealing the full picture.

Reason 2: Boring brands – yesterday’s news

Many bank brands are starting to look out of date.  Generation “swipe” do not take any interest in ATM machines or branded cards.  Online pay is the way, if you draw their attention away from social media long enough to purchase anything.  Older styles are still there, but every day are becoming legacy rather than mainstream.  Today’s banker is creative, visual, appealing in the digital space and knows how to connect.  It’s the future. 


Reason 3: The system is down – and you made it

It has been one disaster after another for so many banks who thought it would be easy to own the digital space.  Many will be aware of the Sabadell purchase of TSB, leading to a software overhaul.  Once it was launched, 1.9 million of TSB’s online and mobile customers were locked out of their accounts for over a week.  Sabadell’s overconfidence meant the TSB system switch caused a net loss of 16000 customers.

But no one should feel complacent.  These kinds of outages are very common.  UK data reveals major banks typically suffer well over one outage a month.

And in the USA just a month ago Wells Fargo were hit by a system problem that included their mobile app and online banking. One power outage was enough to shut down a coast to coast bank.

Working out realistic, robust, and ramped up IT solutions is a big stretch challenge for so many of our IT teams today.  The CIO has to control a huge, chaotic ecosystem of agile teams, vendor relationships, shifting goalposts, and technologies that become redundant almost as soon as they are born.  Managing these complexities for success is the need of the hour.

Reason 4:  Nobody’s listening – people need people

In our virtual, digital world connecting to real people is a growing human need.  Chatbots are growing, but they cannot always handle the nuances of accents, eccentricities and unique needs that make up the customer base.  We crave relationship.  If nobody’s listening, your customers are going to walk away to find a friendly ear.

Reason 5:  Fake News – What is truth?

The proliferation of information isn’t just big data for easy mining.  The very scale of data is reducing trust every day and attracting a horde of untrustworthy actors who bring bad financial advice into our market spaces.  The average bank employee today is often of little help.  They know less than the customers and cannot provide sound advice.  Instead they are often taken in themselves by the rumours and myths that are flying around the web.  Your bank needs well rounded, wise advisors who really understand money, and know the market, and the products of every competitor.  Only that can build the best currency of all.  Trust.