At Standard Chartered Saadiq, digital innovation is totally customer focused

  • 45% adoption rate of Islamic digital banking compared to global average of 39%
  • Sees chat banking becoming more popular, human touch in backend that bots cannot provide  


“Innovation is a matter of survival. For you can’t compete in the market, otherwise,” notes Mohammad Ali Allawala (pic), the chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Saadiq Bhd.

“The way innovation is being driven in this organisation, each and every [job]function has a responsibility to think about how to improve customer experience. Innovation is embedded within our organisational culture. We have not set up a specificAt Standard Chartered Saadiq, digital innovation is totally customer focused innovation team to handle the responsibility,” Ali explains.

This dispersion of responsibility over the role of innovation in the organization that Ali leads has led to an empowered talent pool that does not see innovation as being the role of a specific job function. Furthermore, efforts around innovation are entirely customer focused. “How can we do things better, faster, cheaper for our customers, is the mantra,” says Ali.

These efforts likely explain why Standard Chartered Saadiq is experiencing a digital banking adoption rate of 45% amongst its client base. That’s a higher ratio than the 39% global average for Islamic digital banking. And why it was recently recognised as ‘Global Finance’s Best Islamic Digital Bank - Malaysia’ 2018.

And where it may be tempting to attribute the bank’s digital focus to the US$3 billion (RM12.4 billion) investment, parent company, Standard Chartered Bank Group announced in 2015 towards system and technology enhancements, with US$500 million of that focused on the retail banking side, its digital success has not been about throwing money at a problem.

Echoing Ali’s thoughts, Aizuddin Danian Izham, head of digital banking at Standard Chartered Saadiq, attributes the high customer adoption of digital more to the bank’s understanding of its customer needs.

“We dive deep into understanding the usage patterns of our customers, on mobile and desktop banking, our call centres and their questions to relationship managers,” Aizuddin shares. Meeting their needs with services that are better, faster, cheaper is what has led to the current rate of digital adoption among its customers.

There is also no fear of failure as there is never a single point of failure. Cross functional teams are always formed when developing new products and so there is never a single individual responsible for failure or success. Ali is well aware of the need to remove organisational fear of trying new things and failing. “You can never be innovative if you fear failure,” he believes.

One feature that particularly stands out is live video banking available through the desktop portal. Although available to all customers, Ali shares: “It is more widely used by our more affluent priority clients for discussions with investment advisors and fund managers.”

Be that as it may, Ali foresees chat banking becoming more popular since it’s more convenient and available on the go. “We’ve invested in a team of people to handle our chats, so there is a human touch in the backend that bots cannot provide,” Aizuddin adds.

Through video and chat banking, the human element is still retained in going digital which brings about better adoption rates, Ali believes. “At the end of the day, the customer feels the convenience of digitising but they experience the human element too.”


What about Islamic fintech?

Through local partnerships with the Supercharger fintech accelerator and Bank Negara’s Financial Technology Enabler Group (FTEG), Standard Chartered shares its experience and expertise in the fintech space.

However, as far as investments go, it happens at the group level and gets deployed across markets. “Being an international bank, we have SC Ventures at group level to keep an eye on innovative ideas or acquiring fintechs with solutions applicable across markets.”

As for Islamic fintech opportunities specifically, Ali believes Malaysia is already actively involved in the space, with Bank Negara Malaysia “extremely involved”. But he puts forth, “At the end of the day for fintechs, you may not necessarily have to differentiate between Islamic and conventional.”

In terms of opportunities for Islamic fintech, Ali believes that the biggest space where it can play a role would be in deposit-taking and giving credit. That is the main difference within the Islamic banking structure, while payments and remittances are quite agnostic.”

With innovation a matter of survival for brick and mortars like Standard Chartered, thinking about constantly improving customer experience keeps them on their toes.

Moreover, Aizuddin shares innovation is well looked after from the group level itself, “With SC Ventures, we have a dedicated unit that does nothing else but survey the landscape, collaborate and invest with new partners.” Some of those solutions are then shared throughout the group for individual country units to adopt if they meet customer needs. It all revolves around the customer.

Related stories:



Keyword(s) :
Author Name :
Download Digerati50 2020-2021 PDF

Digerati50 2020-2021

Get and download a digital copy of Digerati50 2020-2021