Mobile Banking in Arabia – What’s Driving Adoption?
I recently returned from a trip to the UAE (Dubai mostly) and Oman. While there I did a bit of research on my own – just talking to folks about how they use their cell phones and so forth. I also had the chance to interview the head of mobile banking services in EMEA for a large, global bank. More on how global banks are avoiding building new branches by offering mobile banking services in another post.
First, I took the public bus from Dubai to Oman. The average income per family in Oman is far below that in the States – probably less than half. Gas and other utilities are cheap as is education and healthcare. That said, we know that cell phone usage has little to do with income. One of the first things I noticed is how many of the men had at least two cell phones. My initial hypothesis was a work phone and a personal phone. I was soon corrected by my guide who drove me up to Jebel Shams. In a country where men can have more than one wife, apparently more than one cell phone is necessary. My guide's father has five current wives, but has had nine all together. My guide had two cell phones and a lot more SIM cards.
My guide was 37 years of age. He had four children and seemed to have an about average income. He worked in sales when he wasn't serving as a guide. He's probably easily one of the most sophisticated cell phone users I've ever met. His cell phone was his portable media player for both music and video. I was astonished by the number of videos he had sideloaded from YouTube. The ringtones were pretty much driving me crazy after about 15 hours in a car with him road tripping. He only had a couple of different ring tones and his phone rang a lot.
What I found interesting was that he was a really frequent user of mobile banking services. He said he did mobile banking at least daily – made a payment, checked a balance, got a notification that money was in his account, etc. He found it to be one of the most useful services. Being very web-centric/credit-card/check-centric, I failed to realize for how many activities one must show up in person at a bank or other place of business if one doesn't have credit cards, checks or the Internet. Bills must be paid in cash in person, for example. As adoption of banking grows, banks are avoiding the cost of building new branches by offering mobile services. They are also improving customer satisfaction by having customers avoid trips to the local branch.
SMS message … both English and Arabic available …
And a few vacation photos:
A couple on the road to Jebel Shams a one of the canyon itself ….
And I take these photos everywhere I go – satellite dishes for TV and Internet on homes that appear to have no running water or electricity (but they do) or floor …