Let’s start at the very beginning of a customer’s typical journey when creating a bank account, known as “onboarding” in FinTech terms.
Customers never have to set foot in the branch, unless they really want to.
Simple enough, right?
Gone are the days of waiting in those long, winding queues at the branch.
Our phones have evolved to do everything we need in order to set up a bank account.
There is no longer a need to set up appointments, physically go to the branch or have all your documents to hand (God forbid you forget a document at home).
So, what convinced the banks to start innovating?
Firstly, they gain mileage from their digital transformation investments since it makes it cheaper to onboard customers - historically quite a major cost for banks.
Detecting fraud and addressing compliance risks becomes easier due to the data being collected, stored and organised better than ever before.
Last, but not least, they can reach a much wider audience with more specific and tailor-made products.
As a result, if you’re happy, they’re happy.
The road to success is not always a straight or clear one.
Not all banks have digested digital transformation with open arms, so a “one step at a time” approach is being taken by FinTechs.
Many banks are still struggling to create a budget for digital transformation.
Convincing experienced bankers, who are usually very conservative (understandably), requires proof of concept and success rates.
There are challenges in convincing banks, but getting support from regulators is unprecedented.
Speaking from a FinTech perspective, the move towards digital transformation is inevitable.
When I was a student abroad, in the UK back in 2017, the banking system I was exposed to there was futuristic compared to what I was used to in Bahrain.
An app on my phone where I could transfer money?
Tapping my phone onto a pad to pay?
Scanning a barcode on my phone at the ATM because I forgot my card?
All this without once meeting a banking representative.
“How can I go back to being a banking Neanderthal?” The thought really scared me.
Fast forward to the present and we are closing the gap on modern banking standards in Bahrain.
We can create bank accounts in roughly seven minutes, transfer money instantly and use fingerprints to withdraw cash.
This is thanks to the regulators and economic development agencies, which pushed for this transformation in Bahrain - making us the Middle East’s FinTech hub.
The best part is that they are just getting started.
We have recently entered the second phase of onboarding in the GCC, considered to be the era of “borderless banking”.
This gives us the ability to open a local bank account across borders in less time than it takes to brew a cup of coffee!
For now, this is limited to citizens of GCC countries, but imagine the future possibilities - like setting up your account in Manama from your holiday home in Sydney.
That’s not something I would have thought possible just two years ago.
* Yasser Haji is a marketing analyst at Aion Digital, a Bahrain-based Fintech firm that “builds” digital banks