The pandemic devastated health and economies worldwide but it also advanced enterprises’ digital transformation plans by a couple of years. The impact on small businesses was particularly acute. RAKBANK has leveraged the Finacle platform to come to the aid of its customers by not only easing the terms of their loans but also by helping them adopt digital technologies in their respective businesses.
We spoke to Sanjay Khanna, Chief Information Officer at RAKBANK to learn more about its initiatives, right from digitally onboarding small business customers to helping them adopt technological tools to offering them services on its SMEsouk platform. RAKBANK also talked about its own digitisation journey and the importance of technology partners as well as a wider fintech ecosystem.
What have been the notable shifts in expectations of the SME customer segment from their bank during the pandemic? If you were to reflect on your business strategies, how has RAKBANK been able to help its SME clients better navigate their challenges?
The pandemic directly impacted SMEs in the UAE in a negative way. This resulted in a shift in SME customer requirements and expectations from their banks. The initial requirements revolved around deferring loans and waiving any charges to basically manage the sudden impact the pandemic had on their business cash flows. However, with passing time SME customers realised that business needed to be conducted remotely and hence influenced the demand for the enhanced digitisation of their services.
We launched several solutions such as SME digital onboarding that offers our SME customers the ability to apply for a bank account online…
– Sanjay Khanna, Chief Information Officer at RAKBANK
Throughout this health crisis we have been working with our SME customers at every stage of their business life cycle and helping them to overcome the impact of the pandemic. The bank provided loan and credit-card deferrals to its customers and helped them restructure their loan payments – this was achieved with the support of the country’s regulators.
In light of the sudden digitisation requirements of all our customers, RAKBANK focused on changing its approach to support customers from navigating a crisis response to a longer-term, post-Covid-19 outlook. We launched several solutions such as SME digital onboarding that offers our SME customers the ability to apply for a bank account online, and enabled WFH (work from home) for our back office staff to process the applications during the pandemic.
What are your reflections on how your tech stack and business strategies have helped RAKBANK navigate through the pandemic with minimum impact on business growth? How critical are they in the realm of SME banking in specific? What has been the experience of the RAKBANK’s own Covid-19 journey?
It is evident that the pandemic has impacted everyone globally, but on the positive side, the pandemic has also provided an opportunity for organisations to enhance customer service through the adoption of new and better digital technologies. We had started the implementation of new digital technology solutions before the pandemic hit and it has helped us tremendously, especially when managing the post-pandemic situation efficiently and effectively.
The clear trend though was the pandemic’s impact on the small business segment. We knew as a national bank that we had to step up. Of course, that doesn’t only mean providing financial support…