The Commercial Bank of Qatar, which was established as the country’s first private bank in 1975, has over the years developed into a leading bank in the region. Recently, the bank received the ‘Most Innovative Customer Service Bank – Qatar 2021’ award at the International Finance Awards. The award is a testament to the bank’s commitment towards digitisation and its effort to offer the best customer experience to its customers. International Finance also recognises the bank’s efforts in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bank responded at lightning speed to protect its customers during Covid-19 with multiple measures put in place to ensure they could safely use the bank. It communicated constantly to all customers during this period with SMS and emails with regular updates on where to bank, how to bank. Also, the bank called its most vulnerable customers to ensure they understood how to use digital banking, including how to get money home to their families overseas.
Leading the fight against Covid-19
Leonie Lethbridge, EGM and Chief Operating Officer said, “During Covid-19 we saw a huge change in client behavior and our investment in technology positioned us well to meet this change.”
As branches were temporarily shut down due to lockdowns, the bank quickly empowered remote banking take-up with short video guides to its online channels. It also fast-tracked the enrolment process to support client migration to online channels, enabled by-appointment branch access to suppress virus spread, and expanded the availability and scope of ATMs accepting cheques and cash. It also provided tracking capability of remittances so customers are aware of the status of their requests. This complemented the focused tracking capability (Trade Tracker/Swift GPI) for remote tracking of trade and cash transactions, and removed multiple touch-points to improve client experience.
The bank’s comprehensive solutions in transaction banking have always aimed to deliver a unique banking experience through its strong focus on digital channels for payments, collections, trade and liquidity management. These services took on added significance in 2020 as Qatar navigated Covid-19. The Bank was well-positioned to meet customers’ needs, ensure safety with minimal disruption and comply with local regulations.
It is also noteworthy that to serve Qatar’s population, the bank has maintained a relatively constant strategic branch presence whilst reducing overall costs. Branches have been positioned in strategically important locations with high footfall, and re-designed to be more compact and economical to operate. It deploys premium and smart branch designs to target specific customer audiences.
The bank also received very positive feedback from customers for its response to the Covid-19 situation, with 72 percent of customers opining that CB had taken ‘very effective measures’ to prevent the spread of Covid-19, while 85 percent were satisfied with in-branch measures to prevent spread of the disease.
On Covid-19-related communications specifically, 89 percent of customers surveyed who responded said they were satisfied with communications through SMS, emails, social media announcements, etc. regarding implementing coronavirus measures in the branches.
The Bank scored highly on customer satisfaction as well. New-to-bank customers in 2020 reported positive experiences with their interactions with the banks, with an overall Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 55. The Bank’s mobile app obtained an NPS of 73 as customers reported very high levels of satisfaction.
Customers particularly appreciated the Bank’s extensive digital offerings and new roll-outs of safe and convenient alternatives to traditional financial services which had become unavailable during lockdown. Around 83 percent of the Bank’s customers said they had increased their usage of the Bank’s digital channels, and around 71 percent said that they would reduce branch visits on a permanent basis.
Commercial Bank’s digital banking strategy
Commercial Bank believes digital leadership is about empowering customers to choose the time, place, and manner in which they wish to engage. Amit Sah, EGM and Head of Retail Banking said, “We work on a ‘pull’ strategy rather than a ‘push’ strategy i.e., our digital services have to compete with other channels to be the preferred choice for customers to engage with us.”
A measure for the success of the strategy is that as of now more than 99 percent of the retail customer transactions happen digitally. Even the SME customers carry out over 95 percent of trade and funds transfer transactions online vs walking into a branch.
“Our philosophy on innovation is driven by the value created for customers rather than innovation for the sake of innovation, hence we have a laser-focused approach on adoption and usage. Our 60 seconds remittance offering is a case in point which we believe can compete with any remittance offering in the world. Monthly usage went from 5000 to over 400 thousand over a 3-year period. Our digital logins have grown from 6 million to 36 million over a 5-year period reflecting the rich functionality of our mobile app,” Sah said.
The Bank is also remodeling its extensive physical presence in the country to a much more efficient and customer friendly “fit for purpose” distribution which ranges from premium lounges to almost fully digital branches.
“Another area where we have successfully leveraged our digital platforms was the support to the country’s objectives of financial inclusion, which essentially has led to a large number of blue-collar workers enjoying the same services as affluent customers at a reduced cost,” he added.
Raju Buddhiraju, EGM and Head of Wholesale Banking at Commercial Bank said, “Our digital strategy is to migrate all our customers’ transactions online. Our focus is on facilitating easy onboarding, adoption and conducting transactions digitally with an end-to-end reconciliation in a secure environment”.
“We also offer direct integration with customers’ ERP systems through Host to Host, API connectivity and SWIFT along with embracing new technologies such as API banking, AI and Blockchain. We also provide a seamless approval process over Mobile banking through the Omni Channel Approach.”
Leonie Lethbridge said, “Mobile banking is becoming more proactive, personalised, and advanced.
“In relation to securing customers against fraudsters and scammers, AI-based systems are effective against malefactors. The programme analyses customer behavior, location, and financial habits and triggers a security mechanism if they detect any unusual activity,” she added.
Commercial Bank’s customer first approach
During 2020, Commercial Bank also became the first local bank in Qatar to offer a corporate mobile solution in the form of Corporate Mobile Banking App. Coupled with encouragement to migrate customers to digital channels, this has triggered a surge in digital payments routed through remote channels, resulting in higher balances and increased fee income.
The Commercial Bank of Qatar is once again pioneering the market with “CB SMART Payroll” service, built for companies, to assist their employees in digitally sending funds overseas. This new service is online, efficient and by following a few simple steps ensures that all workers can access digital remittances.
In this regard, Raju Buddhiraju said, “Commercial Bank has a leadership position for digital payments in Qatar. Following the success of our international remittance service, where we send money in minutes directly to bank accounts in multiple countries, we see this service as a natural extension and complements how we help all segments of customers transact digitally.”
The Bank also launched “CB Household PayCard”, Qatar’s first digital service offered by a bank to manage household workers’ salaries.
Commenting on this launch, Amit Sah said, “PayCard service promotes financial inclusion and builds exponentially on the back of the bank’s successful world class digital services, bringing to this underserved segment of the market a smart digital payment solution that is much needed at this time.”
Last year, the bank also participated in the first Blockchain Open Account Trade Finance Trial on the Marco Polo Platform, the biggest trial to date on the R3 Corda Network. “Facilitating open account trade is an important part of our award-winning trade finance services. Commercial Bank has been working closely with customers in their domestic and international trade in a secure, safe and cost-effective manner”, Leonie Lethbridge said.