Senior exec says bank is retraining employees as part of its digital transformation strategy
Dubai-based Mashreq Bank’s plan to close 12 branches as part of its drive towards online banking will have “no significant impact” on its workforce as it will be moving employees in the affected branches to new roles, a senior bank executive said.
“Today we have 39 branches, by the middle of the year we will get to 27 branches and we will have two (new) smart branches,” Subroto Som, head of retail banking at Mashreq Bank, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
In a statement to Arabian Business on Wednesday, Som addressed the issue of whether the branch closures will lead to job losses: “Although we have committed to further automation and digitisation of our services, there will be no significant impact to our workforce. We have a number of plans in place which will ensure that our employees are retrained for new tech-savvy positions as part of our digital transformation goal.
“One such position at Mashreq Bank is the Universal Banker, a highly trained officer who assists customers by managing their end-to-end needs through digital devices… Ultimately, we believe that some roles require distinctive human traits, and will continue to be indispensable to our customers – as it is something that no technology can replace.”
The plans are part of a wider digital transformation strategy and the bank has announced plans to invest AED500 million ($136 million) over the next five years towards digital innovation.
The move has been motivated by the fact that Mashreq bank reports that it has seen a 60 percent drop in the number of bank users visiting its branches amid a shift towards online and digital services.
“This decrease in the number of customers visiting our branches is over the past 2 – 3 years. Today, customers prefer to use online, mobile and alternate channels as opposed to visiting branches. This is a clear indication of large changes in the customer behaviour as a result of technological developments as well as the importance of customer convenience,” Som said.
Mashreq is the largest privately-owned bank in the United Arab Emirates and in January it reported that net profits stood at AED2.1 billion ($570 million) for 2018, a 0.4 percent increase on the previous year.
Total assets grew by 11.8 percent to AED139.9 billion while loans and advances increased by 10.4 percent to reach AED69.3 billion.
Mashreq's CEO, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, said: “2018 was a difficult year due to market fluctuations, however we rose to the challenge and managed to sustain our revenues. Much of this can be attributed to the bank’s focus on strategically acquiring good assets and growing the loan portfolio, whilst increasing its funding base.”