Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 8 December 2019

‘Bank in your car’ could be just two years away, says Emirates NBD

The in-car banking technology is one of a number of new technologies being shown within the Emirates NBD Future Lab at Emirates Towers in Dubai.
Emirates NBD’s robot assistant, Pepper, greets visitors at the Emirates NBD Future Lab in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National
Emirates NBD’s robot assistant, Pepper, greets visitors at the Emirates NBD Future Lab in Dubai. Reem Mohammed / The National

A partnership between Emirates NBD and Visa Connect could result in your self-driving car driving you directly to an ATM that automatically dispenses cash or to a takeaway that will hand you pizza that has been paid for, according to a bank official.

The in-car banking system is one of a number of new technologies being shown within the Emirates NBD Future Lab at Emirates Towers in Dubai, alongside the bank’s robot assistant, Pepper, a virtual reality shopping service and a voice banking service based on the new Amazon Echo device.

Suvo Sarkar, Emirates NBD’s group head of retail banking and wealth management, said that cars can already communicate directly with service depots and call centres run by their manufacturers, but with new technology including biometric security, a driverless car could take you immediately to an ATM that will dispense cash as you pull up to it, or to a participating store that could have goods waiting for you.

“What we will be able to do tomorrow is have your bank in your car, or your RTA in your car. It will guide you to the nearest parking available and charge you for the number of hours you spend in the parking lot.

“We think it’s less than two years away,” said Mr Sarkar. “It’s not horribly complex and the fact that all Dubai government entities are moving so quickly into the future … I think API [Application Programming Interface – a way of getting different software programs to talk to each other] integration will not be hugely difficult.”

Emirates Towers was chosen as the location for Emirates NBD’s new branch because Dubai Future Foundation’s offices are just a few hundred metres away on the opposite side of a first-floor balcony.

“You see in that area what the future holds for transportation, policing, etc. In this area, you will see what the future holds for banking,” said Mr Sarkar.

The new branch contains three elements. One is a traditional banking zone with advisers, another is a digital zone with ATMs and ITMS – the Interactive Teller Machines with video links first trialled by Emirates NBD two years ago – and the third is the future lab.

Mr Sarkar believes that voice-activated banking – using a voice-controlled speaker like Amazon Echo to make payments and transfer funds – is another technology that can be delivered quickly.

“I would think about 12-18 months,” he said. “We’re already working on voice biometrics where you can talk to [an automated service] and instead of punching keys, you speak to it and it will know what you are talking about.”

For instance, he said that instead of going through a series of menus at its call centre, it will immediately recognise voice commands requesting balances or payments. The service is being tested to cope with the many different languages and accents spoken in the UAE, but could be delivered by the first quarter of 2017.

This will help with an ongoing trend to migrate customers to easier-to-use (and more profitable) non-branch services. Mr Sarkar said that 90 per cent of its transactions are already carried out outside traditional branches – either through call centres, ATMs/CDMs, mobiles or online.

This is changing the nature of its physical banking network, which is still growing, but at a much slower pace.

“We are adding on three to four branches a year now, as opposed to eight to 12 in previous years,” said Mr Sarkar.

New branches also have much smaller “transaction-centric” areas like bank teller windows, and a branch is “typically half” the size of a traditional, 6,000 square feet branch, he said.

Matthew Green, the UAE head of research at CBRE Mena, said banks are continually reviewing their property requirements.

“I think, particularly at the moment, given the downsizing we have seen across the banking sector, optimisation is a strategy they are looking to implement.

For instance, he said mall branches are an issue owing to the affordability of space.

“Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and all of the major malls … obviously every bank wants to have a location there because of the huge footfall, but banks don’t want pay the type of rents that the major malls are asking – and can probably get – from other tenants.”

mfahy@thenational.ae

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Updated: October 5, 2016 04:00 AM

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