“Digital engagement” can seem like a buzzword, but to the Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) this two-word concept is reinventing its operations. To find out more, we spoke to Gyorgy Ladics, BIBD’s Chief Operations Officer. Ladics has held several demanding roles, such as Chief Technology Officer at Barclays and Head of Operations and Technology at Citibank. Whilst working in the financial sector, Ladics has voyaged around the likes of Central Europe, Russia, UAE, Egypt, India, Pakistan and Singapore. Currently, Ladics is using the knowledge gained from these experiences to help execute BIBD’s digital engagement initiative.
Ladics begins with the basics. “BIBD actually has a fully-fledged banking licence. It’s Brunei’s largest bank and leading full service Islamic financial institution.” he tells us. “In addition to consumer and corporate businesses also we have a quite significant treasury & global markets and merchant banking business lines”. With an asset base of B$ 7.5 billion BIBD remains the largest bank in Brunei Darussalam and plays an important role in supporting the countries long term development plan, known as Brunei vision 2035
When did digitalisation become a focus for BIBD? According to Ladics, BIBD started a transformation journey five or six years ago. “BIBD was pretty much a bank that provided services through branches (so called traditional banking) where the customers interact with the branch. When you need to make a transaction you come to the branch, or you can go to ATMs.”
BIBD recognised that something was missing – it was limiting itself. “In a small market like Brunei, we had significant competitors, there’s all the big global or regional names with strong well-known brands, international best practices, strong technology so we need to ensure that BIBD is up to the challenge,” Ladics explains.
BIBD set a strategy to become the bank of choice, earn customer trust, provide signature services and use “technology as a differentiator” – a strategy which enables sustained and healthy growth as well as market leading position. “The goal is to be the bank of choice and digital initiatives are key enablers for that. We are really focusing on the changing behavior and needs of our customers”.
Ladics informs us that BIBD is well on its way to reaching that goal. The bank has changed the way it looks, the way it serves customers and the way its services are accessed. Rebranding, branch redesign and refurbishments, smart branch initiative, establishment of a robust contact center and moving towards digital are all key contributors to success. We ask Ladics to expand.
“We’re now present on our customer’s phones. We started mobile banking in 2012 and it has gained a very rapid adoption which by now has reached a 70-75 percent penetration of mobile usage in our customer base. We have introduced digital merchant platforms so you can use your phone while paying a merchant,” Ladics commented.
BIBD also introduced an enterprise loyalty and rewards program in November 2013. BIBD customers could pay with Hadia Points for bill payments and top-up services. A wide range of eVouchers are available to redeem points. Guided by its “digital engagement roadmap,” the bank introduced a mobile advertising platform the following month. The interface featured interactive content and push messaging. April 2014 saw the introduction of virtual pre-paid credit cards, for online shopping use quicker transfers. Throughout this period, the number of people logging onto BIBD’s mobile banking app steadily increased. Ladics tells us that BIBD customers interact at least 18 times in a month via digital channels and 70 to 75 of the customer base uses digital regularly. “I think this is a great story!” Ladics enthuses. “This sort of penetration and the popularity of digital services speak for themselves.
Despite being so passionate about its “digital evolution” (as Ladics calls it), BIBD is keen to maintain its physical branches and presence. “It’s important to keep the branches upgraded and service customers seamlessly, irrespective whether digital or face to face.” affirms Ladics. BIBD has transformed, refurbished and “digitally enabled” its branches to a “service-oriented, functional, contemporary style”. The refurbished branches are now more spacious, modern and (one might say) fashionable. However, looks aren’t everything. BIBD’s branches have benefitted from digital engagement too; new digital banking platform, re-engineered business services allow consumers to experience “express banking”. Using shopping carts adopted from ecommerce, they can purchase products and services while in the bank. The focus is indeed on human interaction, demonstration and explanation of products and services. Ladics explains: “You don’t come and fill forms. In the age of digital transformation, we also went in the direction of a smart branch, for which we got an award from the Asian Banking Magazine. There’s no need to fill out any forms. When you come to see the customer representative (either to open an account or for additional services), the process is like an ecommerce tour with product briefs where you can pick and choose your services.”
In order to enable self-service and support customer digital engagement, BIBD has built a call center which later was transformed to a contact center to further boost customer interaction. “For the generation of WhatsApp/WeChat/Line”, the centre enables consumers to instant message or call contact centre agents with any issues they may have. BIBD boasts a “secure, authenticated digital conversation” via its Mobile Application.
Ladics summarises: “We’re opening up all the channels, both face-to-face and digital. We are well aware of the cyber threats in the industry and we have to protect ourselves and our customers from any potential dangers. Our IT infrastructure and data centre is upgraded to protect our data and protect our customer’s information”.
By putting customer first and valuing its customers, BIBD manages to stay abreast of the competition. According to Ladics, BIBD successfully retains customers and has hardly lost any customers to competitors. In his own words, BIBD is “opening the door to new prospects while retaining its existing customer base”. Ladics added: “Throughout the past few years, we become more and more aware that customers are choosing banks and service providers based on service levels, and also simplicity and easiness to access or obtain services plays a key role”.
Finally, Ladics tells us that BIBD not only values its customers, it prizes its partners too. He names Silverlake Digital Economy and the entire Silverlake Group as key backers who are “truly driving the innovation and digital banking services”. Ladics also mentions EMC, RSA and IBM – they operate BIBD’s data centre and help the bank cope with the increase in processing requirements.
Ladics rounds off with his thoughts on the future. “We believe that digital banking on the payments, deposits as well as on the lending side will definitely grow and be significant. Also we might see that digital banking services will be seamlessly integrated or packaged into the offering of other bigger digital players (social media, digital chat providers, Telco, eCommerce giants etc...)” he says.
BIBD’s digital journey continues; it is far from completion. Building a seamless omni channel customer experience, forming strategic alliances with FinTech and other market players are coming on the horizon.