Too Much Vanilla and Not Enough Shine
Published in Jan-Feb 2023
The Roshan Digital Account (RDA) – an initiative by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in collaboration with Pakistan’s commercial banks – has increased in popularity ever since its inception in September 2020. The idea that overseas Pakistanis can bank their money in Pakistan, earn good returns and even manage their expenses from anywhere in the world, is an attractive proposition – especially for people with strong ties to their homeland.
Through this initiative, for the first time ever, non-resident Pakistanis (NRPs) have been given the opportunity to open a digital account in a variety of currencies and benefit from several financial services under the product suite of the RDA – some of which offer big returns. In fact, the SBP has made it very convenient for NRPs to open an RDA account; they can do so through any of the 14 RDA-offering banks on their digital portals. However, the question is: which bank should they go with?
A Tough Decision
Ever since RDAs were introduced, growth has remained on an upward trend, with over $5.5 billion entering Pakistan’s economy so far. Despite the repatriable nature of these funds, customers have invested heavily in various RDA sub-products, such as Roshan Apna Ghar, Roshan Apni Car, Roshan Equity Investment or the high-return Naya Pakistan Certificates. Catering to over 500,000 of the 10 million-large Pakistani diaspora worldwide, the potential for growth remains – keeping those 14 banks in fierce competition over which one opens the most accounts and receives the largest deposits.
Given that the offering is similar across all these banks, NRPs who have not been exposed to Pakistani banks for a long time are faced with the decision of which bank to open their account with, especially since the SBP runs its own ads for RDAs as well, showcasing the logo of all participating banks but leaving the choice to the customer. Factor in aspects such as reduced top of mind (TOM) of Pakistani banks and low awareness of smaller banks and NRPs are left with only a few top names to opt for. The result is that the better-known (bigger) banks enjoy the larger share of RDA customers, as most customers are making their decisions based on the brand equity and the perceived value of the banks. This will remain the case until someone says or does something unique.
What motivates NRPs to open a Roshan Digital Account (RDA) in the first place? Banks have leveraged the ‘love for the nation’ sentiment and reiterated it to a great extent, making the narrative repetitive. Other emotional aspects common to remittance marketing have also been included in the communications for RDAs. When looking at the advertising, it seems as if all the banks are more or less saying the same thing, while tapping into the same emotional space. So, are there any other emotional cues that can be leveraged?
What’s the Catch?
All participating banks have developed their own communication to promote their RDA, while also using the SBP’s communication, which inevitably makes the narrative surrounding this product the same so that there is no sense of differentiation between the banks offering an RDA.
Here are a few examples of differentiation. JS Bank allows customers to open their RDA through WhatsApp. The bank has integrated this account-opening process into their bot, making the customer journey much more seamless. Such value-additions can enable banks to break the clutter, despite the fact that RDA has become a vanilla product in the financial market. HBL, for its part, offers free Covid-19 testing in collaboration with the Aga Khan University Hospital for NRPs returning to their country of residence. While this was more relevant during the time that Covid-19 cases were at a high, it is still a differentiating factor.
Enhance the Experience, Not the Product
In an age when consumers are smarter and ask questions before engaging with a brand, it is important to elevate the experience surrounding the products, especially for a vanilla product. This promotes differentiation at a deeper level, going beyond just changing narratives. An example of this is JS Bank’s launch of four dedicated RDA centres for NRPs with dedicated relationship managers and enhanced facilitation in Pakistan where their funds rest. While the product is the same, the universe surrounding it becomes a value proposition, allowing the bank to leverage its narrative to a much greater extent. Furthermore, participating banks are constantly generating content and promoting the product through roadshows across the world. By engaging Pakistani consulates and embassies, banks such as Alfalah, HBL and UBL have run programmes in various countries including the UAE, the UK and the US to increase their TOM amongst NRPs. Other banks appear to be following suit.
Tap into Deeper Insights
What motivates NRPs to open an RDA in the first place? Banks have leveraged the ‘love for the nation’ sentiment and reiterated it to a great extent, making the narrative repetitive. Other emotional aspects common to remittance marketing have also been included in the communications for RDAs. When looking at the advertising, it seems as if all the banks are more or less saying the same thing, while tapping into the same emotional space. So, are there any other emotional cues that can be leveraged? Thought leadership is another area that banks can tap into in order to position themselves as influential players in a specific area and attach the RDA offering as a follow-up to those efforts.
While there are many ways RDAs can be marketed, it is important that a clear differentiation is made about what customers can expect from each bank – even if the product is the same.
Muhammad Ali Khan is AVP Communications, JS Bank.