Digital banking is getting a sharp boost as social distancing measures to slow the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) drive up demand for remote, digital services. Many banks have turned to digital channels to provide their services to clients.
In Egypt, banks have changed their plans with regard to geographical expansion, as the focus started to switch to electronic branches rather than traditional ones. These e-branches have proven their importance as a good alternative in hard times. Electronic payment and ATM cards are also the safest for customers during the coronavirus crisis.
Banque Misr has taken serious steps towards digital transformation, including modernising and developing its BM Online for internet banking service, which allows customers to carry out a wide range of banking and financial services remotely.
As part of its electronic banking services, Banque Misr has offered BM Wallet app that allows customers to transfer any amount through mobile phones and pay all kinds of bills.
The bank has also recently used artificial intelligence technology for the first time in the Egyptian banking sector to provide “Chat Bot” self-service platform on its website to better serve customers around the clock. The interactive service allows clients to interact with the auto assistant any time without waiting, which will reflect on the speed and flexibility of customer service to improve the service efficiency.
Banque Misr was the first bank to provide a point of sales system with a QR code for mobile wallet customers. Moreover, the bank was also pioneering in automating micro-finance services.
Additionally, the bank has a sophisticated network of about 2,800 ATMs nationwide, equipped with the latest technology, offering withdrawal and deposit services, currency exchange, payment of bills and donations, as well as cash transfer services.
The bank was the first to provide withdrawal and deposit services for mobile wallets through its network of ATMs.
Meanwhile, the National Bank of Egypt’s (NBE) customers have performed 14m transactions through its ATMs, at a value exceeding EGP 26bn, at a rate of 468,000 transactions per day since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, according to the bank.
The bank’s customers service, both 19623 for individuals and 19823 for corporates, has played a significant role during that period.
It explained that since the beginning of the crisis, the bank’s customer service agents have received more than 580,000 calls from individual and corporate clients, at a rate of approximately 19,000 calls per day. Additionally, about 160,000 requests were received from clients over phone, meaning 3,600 requests per day. The requests were for the purchase of the bank’s products, especially the 15% platinum certificates that the bank has recently issued. It helped reduce crowding at the bank’s branches in line with the state’s directives of social distancing to curb the virus spread.
The increasing number of customers dealing through the digital services provided by the bank confirms the effectiveness of these alternative means and channels. The number of bank Internet customers increased by about 96,000 customers recently, at a rate of 3,200 new customers daily. The number of transactions executed through the NBE reached 373,000 transactions, with a daily rate of about 12,500 transactions, in addition to 146,000 transactions through mobile banking.
About 6,000 new customers joined the bank’s e-wallet service, making an average of 200 customers per day during that period, while the total transactions through e-wallets reached 916,000 worth nearly EGP 200m, at a rate of more than 6,000 operations daily.
The number of debit cards issued during that period reached 68,000 cards, while the total number of prepaid cards reached 49,000.
According to the NBE, this confirms the effectiveness of the bank’s strategy to further activate its digital services which suit different categories of customers. It also achieves the state’s plans to shift towards a cashless society.
The NBE has also introduced other services to support its digital transformation. The bank has allowed its customers to apply for subscription to digital services through the bank’s website, without the need to visit the branch. Subscription requests were made available at “Al Ahly Net” and “NBE Mobile” apps.
Moreover, the Commercial International Bank (CIB) has announced last week allowing the bank’s customers and non-bank customers to register remotely for the bank’s Smart Wallet services through sending SMS to 4435, as the first bank in Egypt to launch this feature.
According to the bank, the launch of this new feature comes within the framework of the Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) initiative that aims to replace banknote transactions with electronic transactions during the current crisis.
CIB’s Smart Wallet is a mobile application that allows customers to pay bills, transfer money to another wallet in Egypt, and deposit and withdraw money from ATMs.
Required documents are valid National ID and phone number.
Meanwhile, saib Bank has re-launched its e-wallet, after rebranding, which provides various innovative payment services and solutions via mobile phones.
The saib Wallet application allows its users to conducted direct payment and purchasing though simple and easy steps on their mobile phones. It also allows depositing and withdrawing money. It also enables its user to pay bills, in addition to transferring money to and from any other e-wallets.
Wallet holders can also create a virtual card number (VCN) to purchase safely online, valid for 24 hours with a specific amount. Holders of saib ATM cards can link their cards with e-wallets to deposit money at any time.
BLOM Bank Egypt
BLOM Bank Egypt announced the launch of the contactless feature at its ATMs, becoming one of the first banks in Egypt to activate this feature.
The service is scheduled to be activated during the second quarter of this year in some regions initially, and will be generalised in later stages.
BLOM Bank has also added the contactless payment service to its cards, which provides ease in conducting bank transactions.
This feature is characterized by speed and safety in conducting all banking transactions through ATMs. You don’t have to insert your ATM card chip when you make a purchase. Simply tap your card on the machine’s reader, enter your normal card PIN on the machine and follow the on-screen instructions. This feature helps customers avoid having their cards swallowed at ATMs.
During the coming period, the bank seeks to provide a package of other electronic services, within the framework of the CBE’s initiative towards a cashless society.
Emirates NBD-Egypt has raised the limit for bank transfers, whether through mobile or Internet banking or ATMs.
The bank has informed its customers that the maximum amount of transactions has become EGP 500,000 instead of EGP 150,000 in line with the current conditions and the state’s attempt to reduce cash dealings.
Covid-19 changes lifestyle of many societies
MasterCard confirmed that last March many countries in the Middle East imposed restrictions that contributed to changing the lifestyle of many societies in those countries, which prompted a large number of consumers to adopt contactless payment solutions when purchasing their daily needs.
A study of the company revealed that 70% of its participants in the Middle East and Africa confirmed that they use contactless payment methods for safety reasons during the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Also, 6 out of 10 study participants in the region resorted to replacing their traditional ATM cards with others that provide contactless payment.
MasterCard noted that the current global events have increased consumer anxiety regarding the use of cash and prefer to use contactless payment solutions.
About 70% of banking customers in the region reported that they were using contactless payment methods, while 84% agreed that this model is one of the safest payment methods, and 79% said they easily used this method.
Three out of four people have confirmed that the fears of coronavirus infection prompted them to limit the use of cash payments, while 81% expressed their desire to continue using contactless payments after the coronavirus crisis.
Magdy Hassan, General Manager of MasterCard Egypt and Pakistan, said as the safety and health of citizens comes first, it is necessary to provide easy, safe, and innovative technological solutions, to enable them to complete their daily financial transactions while adhering to the measures of social distancing.
He added that the CBE took important decisions to limit the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to doubling the limits of contactless payment transactions that do not require verification of the identity of the card holder to EGP 600, the bank allowed mobile companies and banks to provide a self-registration service for e-wallets. They would allow consumers to conduct all their transactions easily and safely without leaving their homes.
Hassan stressed that MasterCard supports these initiatives as part of its efforts to accelerate the pace of digital transformation, by facilitating digital and contactless payment transactions in Egypt. This enhances the efficiency and safety of payment solutions and encourages people to adhere to the requirements of social separation.
He added that, in addition to encouraging contactless payment technology, MasterCard worked with the CBE, partners, and government agencies to provide their expertise and technologies to facilitate the self-registration system for mobile phone wallets in Egypt.
According to Hassan, there are currently about 14 million e-wallets in Egypt of this kind. They allow customers to pay bills online, do shopping and transfer money without having to leave their homes. Noteworthy, customers had to visit one of the bank’s branches or mobile service providers before to request registration with the electronic wallet application.
He added that the CBE’s decision to allow mobile network operators and banks to provide self-registration services for e-wallet services contributes to speeding up the digital transformation of financial transactions. It provides secure and highly efficient payment solutions for all, while at the same time, supporting social distancing requirements.
He added that customers can register to obtain the smart wallet application through reliable digital channels of mobile services companies. He added that more banks are expected to provide this service over the upcoming period on a larger scale during the next few weeks.