Qatar’s prominent Islamic bank QIIB is looking to open its “first fully digital branch” at Lusail City in 2022, chief executive officer, Dr Abdulbasit Ahmad al-Shaibei has said.
“The fully digital branch is part of QIIB’s digital transformation, which gained considerable momentum, post-pandemic,” al-Shaibei said in an exclusive interview with Gulf Times.
Covid-19, Dr al-Shaibei said, has accelerated digital transformation across various sectors including banking.
“At QIIB, we had planned to embrace digital technology in a big way, much before Covid-19. But we moved to top gear the process of digital transformation following the pandemic,” the prominent Qatari banker said.
“Technology is evolving very fast…and if you don’t tap it, you lose the market share. You feel you have left behind. It is no longer an option, but a necessity,” Dr al-Shaibei said and noted QIIB has found digitalisation “cost-effective”.
He said QIIB is “almost fully digitalised” and following the pandemic last year the bank has seen “it can operate the bank fully without any human interference, except in areas where regulatory requirements still have to be met.”
Following QIIB’s digital transformation, Dr al-Shaibei noted, “We have seen fewer customers utlising our physical branches. Our customers can now do most of their banking services using our digital platform, at the palm of their hand… and at any time and place of their convenience. In fact, we have closed down a couple of our branches, because we thought we don’t require them in this era of digital banking.”
Dr al-Shaibei said, “A closer look at the footfall of our customers visiting branches revealed that a majority are elderly people who do not like to deal with technology. That said, our branches are fully prepared to meet the needs of this segment of our client base…every segment is important to us.”
Highlighting the benefits of digital banking, the CEO said, “Eligible QIIB customers can now avail of finance in 15 minutes. They can have funds in their account swiftly, if they meet the requirements.”
Asked whether QIIB planned to open more branches across the country, Dr al-Shaibei said, “Our focus will be on malls and such other facilities in Qatar. In those locations, we can offer banking services beyond the normal business hours.
“This benefits our customers and employees alike. Our customers get easy access to such locations. They also benefit from flexible timings. An incentive for our employees is the appealing ambience, particularly in malls. If they want a break, they can walk around the facility and get refreshed. Sufficient car parking facility is another big plus.”
On the possibility of opening QIIB branches in the Doha Metro system, he said there are “no such immediate plans.”
“Doha Metro caters to people on the move. Most of them are young people, who are tech-savvy. They prefer to do banking using their mobile phones or computers. And this young generation is not concerned about location or time, when it comes to banking transactions. That’s why we don’t see any immediate need to get into the Metro system with physical branches.”
While digital banking is a boon for the vast majority of population, Dr al-Shaibei has a word of caution for customers.
“Fraudsters may target customers who use digital channels. We already have world-scale security systems in our digital channels. We have invested heavily on IT security.
“But customers should never disclose their PIN or other personal information to anyone. At QIIB, we never ask our customers to reveal banking details. If customers receive calls from scammers, they should immediately alert us,” he said.
He said QIIB is also mindful of competition from “virtual banks and Fintech companies”.
“While healthy competition is good, the fact remains they can invade you from anywhere. For them, geographical borders do not matter. We have fully geared up to meet the potential competition from virtual banks and Fintech companies,” Dr al-Shaibei added.
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