National Bonds serving savers
National Bonds has developed and deployed a wide range of technology solutions to reach customers and deliver outstanding service to encourage them to invest and save
Launched in 2006 by the Investment Corporation of Dubai, the National Bonds Corporation was set up to encourage savings, and to provide a Shariah-compliant investment fund that would appeal to both retail customers, high-net-worth individuals, and corporate customers. Alongside the main Mudaraba-based saving scheme, National Bonds now offers a number of different Islamic compliant financial products, such as insurance, and now has over 800,000 customers from 200 different nationalities, managing Dh5.8 billion ($1.57bn) of funds.
To create a savings product that would appeal to a broad section of potential investors, many of whom did not have experience of saving money or investing in financial products, National Bonds needed to create an attractive and secure proposition that would entice investors. The National Bond program would need to be easily accessible in terms of how customers could buy the bonds, and also provide transparency to investors in terms of keeping them up-to-date on the status of their savings and encouraging more investors.
Hani M Hussein, chief operating officer, was an early member of the National Bonds team, joining in 2005 because of his experience in transactions and payments with local and international financial organisations. The aim was to create an Islamic savings solution that would provide financial planning and investment that was compliant with Shariah principles and requirements, along with international regulations and quality standards.
The technology team at National Bonds decided that the core application to manage the financial investments should be built inhouse, to better cater to the different requirements that would be placed upon the system and to give more flexibility and responsiveness in amending and upgrading the system.
“From day one, we said we would build our own core application, because of the scalability and because of the future requirements,” Hussein said. “You cannot outsource your core competence, if you outsource, or get an application from another company, you will be slammed not only with AMC and support issues, but change control, every time you want to change, it will take time to scope it out.
“Our model in Dubai is immediate — I build an IT strategy every year based on the big business picture, but only 40%-60% comes [from this strategy], there is always something new and you have to react to the market trends. So we built this core application and infrastructure, and we excelled in this transformation.”
The core system was built using an agile model, so that it could easily be adapted to accommodate any new requirements. The technology framework was created to align with the business objectives, and the core system has since been adapted by the inhouse team to cater to the expanding requirements of National Bonds’ customer base, including the addition of regular payment plans for savings and more capabilities suited to high net worth investors.
The team has also put in place the non-core systems, data centre infrastructure, data warehouse and disaster recovery to support operations, and has also adapted systems to take in new developments such as cloud-enabling the core system for distribution, purchase and redemption of bonds so that it can be accessed remotely by National Bonds’ third party distributors.
The corporation has also closely followed industry standards in development and deployment of solutions, including qualification for the ISO 27001: 2003 and ISO 2000 1:2011 standards. Another example of this adherence to standards and quality is the prize module, which was developed inhouse and is used to determine winners for National Bonds prizes — the module has been regularly audited and certified for accurate performance by Insight Statistical Consulting every six months since launch, and draws are supervised by the Department of Economics and Ernst & Young.