MUSCAT – Information Technology (IT) has been an important enabler of the banking and financial services sector for decades. The digitalisation trend has been gathering pace globally over the last few years and the post-COVID-19 world has only further hastened this rapid change with banks receiving more and more customers globally through digital touch points. Bank Muscat is proud to spearhead this change in the country wherein customers’ expectations of a ‘superior experience’ and increased digitalisation have led to considerable investments in technology.
In continuation of Bank Muscat’s endeavour to embrace the latest technology to serve our customers better, the bank has been undergoing a transformational journey over the past years by using state-of-the-art and best in class technologies to offer cutting edge products and services. The bank has invested millions of rials in upgrading to the best in class technology, and widening its banking network across the country as part of the financial inclusion strategy. The bank is channelising investments in technology to deliver meaningful impact and return on investment (ROI) in alignment with the bank’s overall strategy. From having ATMs and CDMS across Oman to a feature-rich Mobile and Internet Banking platform, Bank Muscat has the best e-channels in the country, which are powered by cutting-edge technology. It must be noted that the bank’s achievements in IT are well recognised on the international stage with the bank winning two awards for IT implementation in 2020.
Speaking about the implementation of the latest technologies, Ahmed Omar Al Ojaili, Group Deputy General Manager – Technology, Bank Muscat, said: “As the leading financial services provider in the Sultanate of Oman and in line with our customer-centric vision, it is of prime importance to provide our customers with an excellent banking experience. Our large investments in technology form the basis of this vital customer-centric experience that is currently driven by digital banking. The bank continues to successfully leverage its ongoing partnership with global leaders in next-generation digital services and consulting to ensure that we are able to implement the ‘best in class’ technological solutions for the benefit of our customers and other stakeholders.”
Ahmed Omar Al Ojaili added: “It is important to note that Bank Muscat has been consistently focusing on nurturing and supporting Omani youth in line with the long-term strategic plans of the country and also supporting the long-term growth strategy of the bank. We are proud of the fact that Omani youth have taken up the challenge and are now excelling in the IT arena. At present over 85% of the IT team at the bank are Omani nationals. Digitalisation of banking services and solutions is in line with the goals of Oman Vision 2040 and will ensure continued economic growth in the next phase of Oman’s Renaissance.”
The year 2020 saw an increase in the number of delivered projects by as much as 30 percent from 2017. This was despite the challenges brought about by the global COVID-19 pandemic including working at 50 percent capacity to ensure social distancing. Though working in shifts made critical decision-making a longer process, the team successfully overcame the challenges and obstacles through perseverance and hard work even though it was running over 50 projects simultaneously. The projects delivered in 2020 included those which improved Access Management, Robotic Process Automation and the delivery of internal IT services to ensure greater convenience for end users.
The adoption of smart and innovative payment technology has been a key area of the bank’s focus in recent years. This provided timely help since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bank Muscat scaled up contactless credit and debit card production and distribution, which helped customers to conduct a safe electronic payment method for day-to-day transactions adhering to COVID-19 guidelines. The introduction of contactless wearables for retail payments has also been playing a role in ensuring public health and safety during the pandemic.
The bank has upgraded its Omni-channel Mobile and Internet banking with several new features to add further convenience and ease of banking for its retail customers. The online platforms meet the requirements of the bank’s tech-savvy customers and further ease the delivery of services. Various features available such as bill payments, mobile top ups, payments within Bank Muscat, within Oman and international payments and transfers are being used by large numbers of bank customers on a daily basis and has resulted in a significant increase of active users on these platforms, especially in the post pandemic phase.
The bank’s ‘B2B Connect’ solution, which is digitizing the corporate and government payment workflow, was another game changer during the past year. There is no doubt that scaling up the solution to address the needs of major corporate and government organizations helped the country to maintain economic activities. The B2B solution provides secure and seamless integration with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems of large institutions and corporates to provide an automated, two-way data transfer service for high volume online payments. This facilitated the corporates to implement an automated robust and efficient end-to-end digitized payment workflow processing system. Smaller corporate customers are, meanwhile, well served by the online Corporate Banking platform, which averts the need for multiple branch visits and ensures secure payments and transactions through the online platform. A number of digital options such as these have been helping to avoid face-to-face interaction with bank employees and ensuring social distancing.
Developing Omani IT skills
Bank Muscat has been privileged to lead private sector institutions in creating job opportunities across its different departments. The IT department of the bank has been witnessing a steady rise in the number of Omani cadre, who are also continuously offered new opportunities to further develop their expertise and skill sets. It is a matter of great pride to the bank that Omani employees across all levels have been keenly putting in great efforts to develop national human resources in line with the goals envisaged by Oman Vision 2040. The rate of Omanisation within the bank’s IT department increased to over 85 percent in 2020 and more and more opportunities continue to be created for young Omani IT professionals within the bank.
Creation of job opportunities and other initiatives
The bank hosts an annual IT and Project Management Achievements event to award both individuals as well as project teams for their excellent performance across different aspects. These include categories for individual awards like Rising Star which are given to new employees to encourage initiative and hard work. Awards for project teams include categories such as Most Complex Project, Smoothest Implementation and Best Governance Award. It must also be noted that employees are given many opportunities to attend onsite and online trainings for different technology verticals such as Operating System, Database, and Security. Training is made continuously available for employees including those that enhance their hard skills and their soft skills.
With its continuous and well planned technology strategy, there is no doubt that Bank Muscat is setting a fine example for the private sector as it continuously builds capacity and creates rewarding career opportunities for the national cadre in the Sultanate. The bank continues to innovate on a daily basis in response to its customer-centric vision and the overarching development goals of the Sultanate to persistently demonstrate its role as the leading financial services provider in the Sultanate that keeps the wheels of the economy rolling smoothly.