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The E-banking Revolution in the Middle East

E-banking now plays an important role in the banking and financial industry in the Middle East. Once a novelty, e-banking is now ubiquitous in the region. With the growing adoption of smartphones and tablet devices and the surge in internet use, e-banking has become the way to reach out to customers with these devices and those who have no access to traditional banks.

Banks and financial institutions can also no longer ignore the use of social media to build and maintain relationships with customers. As reported in the Albawaba Business, the Dubai Islamic Bank has introduced its own social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn, to engage with its customers by keeping them updated on the latest news and allowing them a platform for feedback and complaints.

Coupled with mobile communication, e-banking has revolutionized the way customers in the Middle East bank and manage their money. Customers are looking for safe and convenient ways to perform their banking activities. With an online savings account, customers can access their accounts from anywhere in the world, transfer money between accounts worldwide, view online statements, and make online bill payments.

Banks and financial institutions in Oman are pioneers in the e-banking revolution. With an overwhelming young demographic profile where half of all Omanis are under the age of 20 and an increasing number of tech-savvy Omanis adapting to online technologies, banking over the phone, through mobile applications and the internet has become more popular. The convenience of available service, ease of navigation, knowledge of internet technology, customized banking services and online tracking of banking services are some factors affecting Omanis’ decisions to adopt e-banking.

With an increasing number of customers demanding control and access to their finances anywhere and anytime, banks and financial institutions in Oman are introducing more enhanced and secure ways to combat new risks. In July 2013, HSBC Bank Oman S.A.O.G. became the first bank in Oman to offer Secure Key for its internet customers. The small and lightweight Secure Key provides customers an additional layer of security for online access wherever and whenever they need it.

Mobile applications with user-friendly interfaces and device-specific security are also becoming popular in the Oman banking sector. For example, HSBC Bank has upgraded its mobile banking application for Android-powered devices. The new application is simple to navigate and enables customers to transfer funds between their HSBC accounts. Customers can also view their accounts and card balances and the transaction details, check exchange and deposit rates, and view special offers and account history.

These new technologies in banking provide new opportunities for banks and financial institutions to interact and meet their customers’ needs and increase their market share. Omanis still value the personal attention available in their local bank but the challenge for banks is how to harness the potential of emerging technologies such as tablet banking to improve their operational efficiency while maintaining a customized, personalized experience and delivering superior customer service.