Cognitive computing

Banks compete in the cognitive era — with the right IT infrastructure

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Whether rolling out the first automated teller machine (ATM) in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or introducing the country’s first Visa card, Mashreq Bank has long been at the forefront of technology innovation. So it is no surprise that today we’re exploring technologies ranging from hybrid cloud to cognitive computing.

Financial institutions everywhere are increasingly challenged by the scale of their existing systems while also being disrupted by startups. With many types of companies entering the financial services field, staying ahead of the competition through innovation is essential. To grow, banks need to find better ways to serve new and existing customers securely and at low cost.

Now in its 50th year, Mashreq is the largest privately owned bank in the UAE and has branches all over the world including Hong Kong, India, the UK and the US. To focus on the future, our bank has laid out an IT strategy focused on three main areas:

  • Digitization: Driving digital transformation can benefit both our internal employees for process automation and our customers who want services 24/7/365.
  • Service excellence: Because the customer is the first priority, everything we do needs to enhance the customer experience.
  • Cost-efficiency: In banking and IT, we need to find cost-efficient solutions to drive business and customer value.

For Mashreq bank, carrying out this strategy involves implementing cognitive technologies, moving to a hybrid cloud infrastructure and collaborating with business leaders to drive continued innovation, enhance customer engagement and achieve cost-efficiency.

Personalizing customer experiences with cognitive

Cognitive technology is a big part of service excellence for us. In today’s world, banking revolves around the customer. We use  big data analytics to more deeply understand the user’s viewpoint and deliver a better, more personalized customer experience. An example is enabling customers to interact with the bank in ways that best suit them at any given time.

Suppose on any given workday morning, for example, you want to transfer some money to a family member. You log on to online banking to transfer the funds, and then you have to rush to the office. Once in the office, you use your mobile banking app to pick up right where you left off, adding that same family member’s name to your account. Later, you need to transfer some money overseas but have to leave for a late afternoon meeting. When you get back to the overseas transfer the next day, you realize the foreign currency rate has changed. You phone the bank’s call center for an update. The person on the line knows what transaction you are working on and quickly gives you the latest exchange rate.

In this scenario, you enjoy a positive, personalized experience with continuity from one banking activity to the next, even though you’re using different channels and accessing different services.

Extending IT infrastructure and reducing costs with hybrid cloud

At Mashreq Bank, we are also evolving our services by delivering on cloud. We already have a powerful infrastructure built on IBM Power Systems, and moving to a hybrid cloud enables us to extend the benefits of our technology investments and further bring down the cost per transaction. As the transaction cost comes down, we can pass on the benefits to the customer.

We have also deployed IBM Spectrum Scale storage software. This enterprise-scale, software defined storage is facilitating our move to hybrid cloud and helping us meet the needs of our affiliate banks. Having a scalable, secure, open cloud environment enables our affiliates to easily migrate to our platform for increased efficiency and helps us safeguard customer data and transactions from security breaches, unauthorized access and loss or theft.

Spurring innovation in a partnership between business and IT

Gaining these benefits depends on aligning IT with business goals. At Mashreq Banks, IT and businesses are working together to see how we can bring value to our customers. New technologies often provide the means to add that value. The partnership between business and IT is essential to rolling out new solutions — and keeping our reputation for innovation for the next 50 years.

I recently spoke about these capabilities with Jeff Camp, director, systems group storage, Middle East and Africa, IBM Systems. Take a look at our discussion to learn more about how Mashreq is increasing market competitiveness with a secure and data-driven IT infrastructure.

To watch other industry leaders discuss how they are innovating with cloud or accelerating data insights with cognitive, check out the No Filter IT video series.

Vice President, Head – Technology Operations of Mashreq Bank

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