Opportunity In Adversity

Abdullah Zahran Al Hinai, CEO, National Bank of Oman

Abdullah Zahran Al Hinai, CEO, National Bank of Oman is confident about the organization’s growth prospects despite the ongoing challenges

-An OERLive Exclusive

Can you share some of the highlights of the National Bank of Oman’s performance during the financial year 2020?

A major success this year has been in the use of our digitally-led solutions, which became essential tools in helping customers across the country manage their financial lives and in many cases their businesses, safely and easily from home. In 2020 we introduced cardless ATM transactions which allow customers to withdraw cash at the ATM using only their smartphones, and continuously upgraded our mobile App to provide the same range of services as a customer would be able to access in-branch. By increasing digital accessibility, we have shown that NBO is there to help our customers in all circumstances at all times of day and night and that they can trust us to support them. Elsewhere, we continued to build our national talent with various training initiatives and partnerships, often delivered virtually, and support the community with our active CSR program.

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

We have a strong and well-established infrastructure utilizing the latest modern banking technologies. This has enabled us to maintain the continuity of our business, thus helping customers carry on with their business. The popularity of our mobile banking App prior to the onset of the pandemic had already seen a vast majority of customers switch to digital banking with NBO and the features available through the App only increased during the past year. Health and safety is always a priority and being able to completely manage financial transactions using the app allowed customers to enjoy an easy and seamless banking experience. We reached out to customers with instructions and recommendations through text messages, e-mails, and on social media. At the same time, our effective ‘Work from Home’ protocols reassured customers that our services were uninterrupted and the bank was still providing customers with the first-class banking experience they expect from us.

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

Our digital transformation was already well underway and embraced by our customers, but what the pandemic did was show just how essential digital banking solutions really are. To meet this spike in demand, we launched many new products and solutions this year which included several additions to our mobile banking app such as an international remittance service, a cardless cash service that utilizes QR codes for ATM withdrawals, and a new WhatsApp service. We also created a dedicated mobile app for Badeel’s non-NBO customers and introduced printer kiosks that allow card-holders to order and print out their cards. All of these innovations promoted digital financial management while reducing the reliance on face-to-face contact and improving convenience which will improve our customer experience going forward.

Please share 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 contingency in the future?

Although the pandemic has been undoubtedly tough, the bank has always been committed to evolving its services in line with Oman’s Vision 2040 and the government’s shift towards a digital society. The pandemic has shown how vital it is to be flexible, continue to innovate, and shown us how resilient we are while offering learning opportunities to improve further. Nothing is more important than the health and wellbeing of our team and our community, and this year has shown the importance of being ready for anything. From the adversity, we all faced this year comes an opportunity to adopt the lessons we’ve learned and continue moving forward to benefit our customers now and in the future.

What can your customers and partners look forward to from the National Bank of Oman in 2021?

As we continue to move through 2021, we remain optimistic over the upcoming growth opportunities of our organization on all levels. We have identified opportunities for growth and are undertaking critical steps that will protect the legacy we have built in the market while continuing to create value for our customers and harness the talent of the bank. Now and going forward, we are resolved to stay strong and committed as a team to protect the health of our employees and our customers and continue to offer a superior customer experience and digitally-enabled service.