Economic Development

Consistent with our philosophy of Creating Shared Value, we have continued to magnify our social impact by leveraging the full power of our business to work with different stakeholders and contribute to a more resilient and stable economy. By creating manifold economic opportunities, providing access to finance and innovation, and adapting to the needs of the marketplace and the local economy, we have made significant strides under this pillar.
APR. 10, 2017 – EFMA
Raffy Karamanian, Assistant Head of Group Retail Banking (Group delivery channels specialist) and Dania Abou-Zeinab, Assistant Head of Group Retail Banking (Group product development specialist) at Bank Audi, discuss the Bank’s role as a pioneer in digital transformation.

What do you think banks will focus on in terms of digital transformation over the next few years?
Karamanian: “The banking landscape is evolving rapidly. Technology and connectivity have become an essential part of everyone’s daily life. Over the past years, alternative channels and migration of transactional banking to cost-effective channels have played an important role.”

Abou-Zeinab: “Today, banks’ offerings are quite different of what they used to be 10 to 20 years ago. Customer behaviour is constantly evolving into a more sophisticated, tech-savvy and self-directed conduct which makes it inevitable for banks to evolve. At Bank Audi, for instance, we are building ourselves around our customers’ needs by adopting an innovative segmentation approach and expanding our digital landscape. In response to a successful track record of introducing new technologies, we are leveraging our omni-channel for several uses in Lebanon and other regions, hence minimising branch need and facilitating the customer’s relationship with the Bank.”

Where does Bank Audi stand now with digital transformation, and what will you focus on in the next few years?
Karamanian: “Bank Audi’s digital transformation journey began several years ago – we were pioneers in introducing Novo, touchscreens, video banking services, and many other self-service channels. We are at the forefront of this digital transformation, continuously focusing on delivering innovation and advanced digital banking solutions. For the coming period, we are focusing on advanced analytics, integrated payments, remote advisory and servicing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and smart servicing models; minding the regional coverage of local market specificities, regulatory framework, and local laws such as the e-signature, which play an important element in the transformation of the sector.”

How are you making sure you deliver the experience different customers expect?
Abou-Zeinab: “When it comes to experience, differences among customers depend on their level of attachment to the branch which is the core of a personal experience. In the case of self-directed customers, they work autonomously but may seek face-to-face branch interactions if not met digitally. The biggest challenge lies in preserving personalisation, transparency, safety, and guidance attributes in the digital experience.”

Karamanian: “Moving further towards digital banking, we are adding flexibility and convenience; however, not at the cost of trust which is vital to Bank Audi. In the conventional model, trust is developed from a history of interpersonal interactions and communication. In digital teams and remote services, establishing trust can be more complicated. The main 3 elements to build trust in virtual interactions are based on ability, integrity and benevolence. We are integrating these components within our processes and training programs to reflect them in our servicing model and deliver a positive experience contrary to customer expectations.”

Bank Audi is recognised as one of the most innovative banks in the region and an early adopter of new technologies. Is there room now to put your investment into technology into return or is there still a way to go?
Abou-Zeinab: “Investing in technology may be driven by different objectives, be it changing customer behaviour or setting the trend; however, at the end of the day, they all converge towards increasing profitability by capturing market share at minimised costs. As such, and even if we incur higher costs, it will enhance our profitability model five to six years down the road, thereby paying off in the future.”

Karamanian: “Transforming is about changing an operating model, it’s about culture, it’s about educating people. Transformation is a long journey. It’s not just implementing a system to become technologically advanced or embracing best practices; this is about learning from your mistakes and listening to your customers.”

Abou-Zeinab: “Bank Audi is known to be a leading step-change in innovation. Others on the market are constantly mimicking the solutions we introduce, trying to catch up with our level of technology. Innovation is among Bank Audi’s values, and has always been prioritised and nurtured through the years.”

Where do you see Bank Audi in two to three years’ time?
Karamanian: “There are new technologies on the way, new innovations and many new services for customers to enjoy. Furthermore, regulators have a major role to play. Bank Audi will always have customers at the centre, with their requirements being met by multiple parties instead of just one.”

Abou-Zeinab: “I would like to stress the importance of role transparency and compliance play, despite the fact that they may slow down the digital transformation process. At the end of the day, going digital while being flexible and convenient would still necessitate being transparent. Compliance has to be at the heart of our strategy, keeping in mind how the industry has evolved and the new regulations currently in the pipeline.”

What is your view of the longer term?
Karamanian: “Over the next 10 years, the entire financial sector has an important role to play for both on-board and the un-banked population – which represents a large share on our side of the world, while also providing advisory services to help people understand and shape their financial goals and portfolio.”

Abou-Zeinab: “Orientation is a key role financial stakeholders need to play as it’s very tempting nowadays to spend and live beyond what one can afford, especially in the region. This makes the advisory role crucial and we, as a bank, need to guide people.”
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