Mashreqbank unveils online offensive

After sitting out the early days of e-banking in the region, Mashreqbank has at last kicked off its Internet offensive with the unveiling of three online delivery channels.

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By  Greg Wilson Published  May 29, 2001

Mashreqbank|~||~||~|After sitting out the early days of e-banking in the region, Mashreqbank has at last kicked off its Internet offensive with the unveiling of three online delivery channels. With just a 100-day development window, Mashreq’s project team put together Internet services for its retail, corporate and correspondent customers. The e-banking services blitz was a key element of the bank’s efforts to “provide an integrated and comprehensive delivery system as part of the entire banking strategy,” said Mashreqbank’s CEO Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair.

Although the Internet as a banking channel does provide significant cost savings to other delivery channels, such as ATMs, branches or tele-banking, Mashreqbank’s main aim is to provide greater customer convenience, rather than reduce operating costs. “Cost saving isn’t one of our primary goals but again it’s part of the delivery mechanism… it’s also the cheapest delivery mechanism, but that is a of side [effect,]” says the bank’s head of technology, Mohamed Fouz, vice president & head of technology. “The primary aim is to provide the customers with self-service and enable them to do their banking 24x7 at their convenience,” he adds.

Although Mashreq’s online services have only been operational for a short period of time they have received a good response from both the corporate and retail segment. The corporate services were given a soft launch at the beginning of May and have already attracted in excess of 150 corporate clients. On the retail side, the bank had around 3500 customers using the online services in less then two weeks of going live.

However, cautioned Faizal Mohamed Eledath, assistant vice president, direct banking technology, Mashreqbank, security concerns would prevent numbers from ‘sky rocketing.’

“We have around 60,000 customers on tele-banking and we hope to migrate a good percentage of them, but this will be slow, it won’t just rocket up,” says Eledath. To build the number of users further is going to require “continually adding services… it’s quite a slow thing,” he adds.

The forthcoming barrage of services expected in the coming weeks will build the bank’s competitive status in the online e-banking space.

“We are the largest retail bank in the country so we have to ensure that we can implement a service on the Internet,” says the head of technology.

Mashreqbank’s ability to add services is going to be critical as its looks to take its physical world leadership into cyberspace. However, the bank is confident it can build services rapidly due to its infrastructure.

Mashreq has developed a COM+ based middleware layer, which connects customer data and applications hosted in the backend to the customer-facing frontend. Through the use of COM+ objects the development can rapidly assemble the ‘presentation layer’ for the customer, without having to touch its communication or data logic layers.

For example, in the coming weeks the bank aims to add SMS support to its online services. According to Eledath, this project has only taken three weeks to put together, due to the middleware layer. “The middleware part is the glue that puts together the various host systems with the various channels,” says Eledath.

“For example, [with] the Internet banking and the tele-banking the services are essentially the same, except that the interface varies. When we go about doing a project we see what the portions are that we can re-use. The plumbing work doesn’t change — we [alter] the interface layer.”

The bank’s infrastructure, which includes a data warehouse, enables the sharing of customer data across channels. Mashreq’s call centre already uses customer relationship management software to target services at certain callers.

Plans to integrate similar functionality into its web presence are already underway, says Eledath. “From a personalisation perspective the hooks are in place… but that is something that we are working on,” says Eledath.

“[For] CRM the benefit of this architecture is that all channels are aware of each other.”
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