AMBER ARSHAD: In 2016, UBL won Best Bank Award at the first Pakistan Banking Awards. In 2017, the bank announced having the widest network (45,000+ customer touch points). To what do you attribute UBL’s success?
ALI HABIB: UBL has come to be acknowledged as a progressive and innovative bank. These two attributes have propelled the institution to take the lead in financial inclusion and participating in the economic development of Pakistan. The values that guide our operations and ultimately our success are putting the customer first, maintaining high standards of honesty of purpose, teamwork, encouraging excellence and meritocracy.
AA: How is UBL connecting with the young people of Pakistan?
AH: Firstly, by making our communication and advertising creative and engaging like our advertisement for our product ‘Mukammal Current Account’. Secondly, by leveraging our association with Pakistani cricket – we have long been sponsors of bilateral cricket tournaments; in fact, six Pakistani cricket team captains, including Younus Khan, have played for UBL. Thirdly, by leveraging literature as a platform; we initiated the UBL Literary Awards and this year we gave it an additional boost by making it part of the Karachi Literature Festival. Fourthly, by leveraging social media. UBL is the first Pakistani bank to have attained one million fans on Facebook. We use social media to put our message across to our customers.
AA: What has changed in the way banking is done over the last five years?
AH: The cost of doing business has gone up and margins have gone down. As more of the unbanked population joins the formal sector, revenue streams will increase and the players who succeed in leveraging digital payment technologies will emerge as the winners. Customers have become more aware and demanding. The marketing approach in the industry has historically been product-focused, with limited focus on corporate branding – yet banks need to create a distinct brand identity and this can only be done if our target audience is aware of the technology-enabled financial convenience and better customer service we offer. In addition to Fintech, there is the enhanced customer service and consumer protection (in line with international practices) we offer. At UBL, we have incorporated within our practices the framework of the Fair Treatment of Customers, whereby customers must be given a ‘wow’ experience. The idea is that whenever customers interact with the bank through any touch-point, they should be confident that they will be treated fairly through every stage of their interaction with us.
AA: What are the challenges of implementing Fintech?
AH: The challenges are preventing money laundering, information security and fraud management. As most transactions happen without a physical presence, institutional regulations for safety need to be strictly followed.
AA: How will the biometric ATMs UBL launched last year impact the consumer experience?
AH: UBL has the largest inventory of active biometrics ATMs of any bank in Pakistan. Of a total of 1100, over 650 are biometric. If you are a UBL account holder you don’t have to carry your ATM card to perform any ATM-based transaction on our biometric ATMs. To perform a transaction, customers simply have to type in their CNIC number and verify their thumb print. This ensures convenience and security and is nothing less than a game changing innovation in the financial services arena.
AA: UBL’s launched the first ‘manless digital’ branch in March. What was the reason to do so?
AH: This pilot branch is located at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA-City Campus) in Karachi. It runs without the physical presence of any bank staff, yet it is able to provide a host of services, including account opening, cash deposits and withdrawals, Inter Bank Fund Transfers, instant debit card issuance and replacement card requests. By starting this digital branch in pilot form, we intend to test how to achieve a seamless experience for the customer. We are planning to expand these digital branches nationally.