Leveraging Enhanced Synergies

Sulaiman Al Harthi, CEO, Alizz Islamic Bank

We pride ourselves in our customer-centric approach and ability to provide clients with real-time solutions in response to new challenges being thrown up by an ever-changing macro-economic environment says Sulaiman Al Harthi, CEO, Alizz Islamic Bank.

-An OER Exclusive Report

Please share some of the major achievements of Alizz Islamic Bank during FY 2020?

Alizz Islamic Bank completed all processes related to the integration of Al Yusr Islamic Banking in 2020. This includes integrating and transferring customers, services, employees, assets, and liabilities from the Al Yusr Islamic Banking window to Alizz Islamic bank’s operating system. This merger, which was the first of its kind in the local banking sector has led to the formation of a larger Islamic banking entity that can effectively compete in the market and meet the various financial services needs of the customers. The significance of this merger is that the Board and the management decided that they wanted to finalize the entire integration within a very short time of two months to focus entirely on business. This was a very important step that the Board and the management took so that the turnaround of the bank could be swift and fast. The success of the merger between the two institutions has resulted in the formation of a new financial entity that will be more competitive, both locally and regionally, and in a position to promote the development of the financial sector in the Sultanate in line with the latest international standards. The merger brings together several synergies as the banks currently have complementary products, systems, technologies, and customer segments. Alizz Islamic bank now has a wider network of 16 branches in various governorates of the Sultanate. In addition to expanding the digital services network to complete banking transactions with ease, customers now have access to an award-winning mobile banking application which is considered one of the best applications in the local banking sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations to look at innovative ways to serve customers and ensure business continuity. How has Alizz Islamic Bank ensured continuous customer engagement and service without disruption?

The bank was one of the first entities in the Sultanate to take a preventive measure ahead of time by implementing the Business Continuity Plan (BCP). As part of the business continuity plan, a secondary team was transferred on the 15th of March 2020 to the bank’s business continuity site to ensure that services are not interrupted in case of any adverse situation and that customers’ banking requirements continue to be served. All Alizz Islamic Bank ATMs are fitted with sanitizer dispensers as well, for customers to be able to sanitize their hands before and after dealing with physical cash. The bank also sent out advisory communications to customers via SMS, radio, and the bank’s social media channels encouraging customers to use the bank’s best-in-class mobile banking application to conduct their banking needs and pay their bills rather than visiting a branch or a bill payment machine. Additionally, the bank has advised customers to use their contactless cards instead of cash for purchasing. Alizz Islamic bank continues to monitor the ever-changing circumstances surrounding the coronavirus, and all Alizz Islamic bank branches have been fully briefed on essential preparatory and prevention measures. These range from hygiene measures, including increased cleaning and sanitizing frequency, as well as guidelines on how to handle suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in cooperation with the local authorities. The bank continues to follow all the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the Supreme Committee tasked with the mechanism to tackle the developments of coronavirus and all relevant authorities to ensure the actions taken are comprehensive and suitable.

Leveraging Enhanced Synergies

The pandemic has accelerated the thrust towards digitalization. Can you share the initiatives taken to strengthen the bank’s digital offerings?

Thankfully, we already had a head start on digitalization, as we, as an organization have always had a strong belief in enhancing the online and digital customer experience. Since its inception in 2013, Alizz Islamic Bank has breached the gap between customers and the bank using the latest technology solutions. Alizz Islamic Bank’s mobile banking application gives customers the ease of banking everywhere and anywhere. The bilingual mobile banking application is available for Android, Huawei, and iOS devices, and features the very latest in mobile banking technology with advanced security capabilities. The Alizz Islamic Bank Mobile Banking application has a simple in-app self-registration process. The app is biometrically enabled so customers can log in with FaceID or TouchID. Through this app, the customers are offered the convenience of applying for a new account or card, processes instant transfers, pays all their monthly bills simultaneously with one tap of a button, requests for a checkbook, issues account statements, and other benefits through the app. The app also offers location information of Alizz Islamic bank branches and ATMs and provides reminders for monthly bill and credit card payments that are due in addition to information on the account balance. Additional information is also provided such as prayer times, Qibla direction, Zakat calculation, and currency rate updates.

Please share your/the bank’s learnings from 2020 (in light of the pandemic and challenging economic environment) and ways in which these will help in being better prepared for a similar eventuality in the future?

Alizz Islamic bank was reactive and quick to adapt our approach in line with what our customers truly needed, and demonstrated that we are always listening to our customers by providing personalized banking solutions that reflected their needs. We pride ourselves on our customer-centric approach that provides real solutions in response to new and emerging challenges that customers are facing. Digitalization in the banking sector moved at a more rapid pace during lockdown when even those unfamiliar with mobile banking and internet banking were forced to bank from home as we scaled back physical channels and human interactions, and we are proud that we were ready for the challenge.

What can your customers and partners look forward to from Alizz Islamic bank in 2021?

Alizz Islamic Bank has gone through a very difficult situation over the last three years, and we can confidently say now that we have left difficult times behind us. As mentioned earlier, due to actions taken by the Board and the management, the bank is back, ready and strong to serve its clients in the best possible ways. The main focus of the bank now is to innovate and introduce new products and services that will enable it to compete in the marketplace and contribute significantly to the economy. In addition to winning an international award for our leading role in speeding up operations, there are important plans that must be worked on, and therefore we are cautiously optimistic about the year 2021. The government has taken important steps to improve economic conditions in the next three years, but in general, the vision is still unclear about the ongoing pandemic and its negative repercussions on world economies.