High Tech Banking in Lebanon: An Industry in Expansion

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Opening new accounts, paying bills, trading. All with just a click of a button. The banking industry worldwide seems to be getting more and more digitized, with hours of reading and signing papers being replaced by a few online steps, without having to leave your house. The banking system has had to keep up with the technology boom around the world, as consumers are expecting and demanding better, faster service and solutions all the time. In Lebanon, where the banking sector is considered the backbone of the economy, digitization seemed inevitable.

In the past few years, several of the Lebanese leading banks have acknowledged the need to build better platforms and develop new programs for their consumers. This has included partnering with major credit card companies, businesses worldwide, and the integration of a comprehensive financial software into all banking aspects. In April 2016, SGBL announced a new partnership with Master Card to offer their clients the ability to make payments anywhere, at any time, in a safe and secure manner. This first step, a 5 year commitment, hopes to pave the way for further collaborations, as the Lebanese market strives to keep pace with global technology innovations, and slowly transform itself into a cash-less digitized society. BLOM bank, the leading retail bank in Lebanon, also partnered recently with Uber, a worldwide technology company that has revolutionized the transportation world by creating a platform to connect partner drivers with riders. BLOM introduced in October 2015 the UberBLOM card, a prepaid card that can be used in Lebanon and any of the cities where Uber is present around the world. This again is another way in which the Lebanese society is moving one of its aspects, land transportation, into the digital world, eliminating cash transactions.

The Lebanese banks, as well as banks worldwide, are facing an uphill battle to keep up with new nontraditional payment services such as apple, google and potentially Facebook; as well as emerging e-trading companies. In light of this new competition, Lebanese banks have partnered with financial technology companies to revamp their structure and adapt to the new market. Bank al Mawarid and Bank of Beirut have installed Misys, a financial software that was recently named a leader in global retail banking. The goal is to provide a banking platform that is comprehensive, user friendly, and adaptive to the changes both in the market place but also in customer needs. SGBL in 2014 also announced a partnership with Temenos, a banking software system, to again become more versatile and flexible across the board. These are a few examples of the changes that are occurring within the Lebanese banking system. Leaders within the banks are aware that this is only the first step, and much more work needs to be done to keep pace with an ever growing and thriving retail banking market in the country. Financial analysts and banks remain aware however of the time and money investment required to remain on top of the game. The final product delivered to customers is only a window front, and the result of layer over layer of innovation and development. The adoption of new financial solutions needs to be done carefully and seamlessly. This may be a challenge depending on whether the new software is building on prior data and upgrading the system, or does it require uprooting what is already in place.

As the Executive magazine puts it nicely, this is a “brave new world” for banking . Lebanon, as well as the world, are facing increasing pressures to keep up with the technology boom. In a society where the banking system is crucial to economic stability, new innovations and development must be implemented carefully to avoid any destabilization of this sector.

Image Source: bankaudi.com.lb/Lebanon/Novo

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