Mauritius is undergoing something of a banking boom right now. The island is fast becoming known as a growing, stable financial hub with banking options in sub-Saharan Africa often preferred to the often-volatile African markets; there is currently $38bn in banking sector assets held offshore. Cross-border banking in Africa, since the global giants vacated the area following the global financial crisis in 2008, has opened up many areas of growth and MauBank – Mauritus’ third largest bank – is one such beneficiary of this new space.
To keep its customer offerings aligned with the demands of the modern marketplace, while operating as efficiently as possible, MauBank is in the process of digitalizing its customer journey and operational processes as it undergoes a transformation through engineering of business processes to bring operational efficiencies while reducing cost across the company. This is an overhaul that is seeing major growth at the bank as it reaches out further afield for new clients, and areas of expansion. Chief Information and Digital Officer Sudheer Prabhu is the man taking MauBank’s digital strategy even further. “I was hired to put
a digital strategy in place, which is in line with the management’s vision of the bank that completely supports technology-driven processes and initiatives to enhance the customer experience as well as bringing in operational efficiency,” Prabhu explains.
One of the initial considerations behind the changes at MauBank related to the current regulatory environment of the market. “To create a strategy, you need to understand the current market situation and regulations,” he explains. “’What is the current regulatory environment in which we are operating as a bank?’ So, we did a bit of research before working on a three-pronged strategy.”
The first initiative launched by Prabhu and his team was the total digitisation of the bank’s board, rendering the internal operations at MauBank paperless. “Our entire board meeting is now done on tablets with uploaded papers. That was where we started the digital journey,” Prabhu explains.
With any large-scale implementation of new technologically-driven processes, staff have to be comfortable with the new processes and technologies. “You really need ambassadors within the organisations,” Prabhu explains. “Which means the staff must be enabled before they can first embrace the digital transformation. This has to happen before we can tell our customers and before we engage with customers and enable them with digital tools.
“We then embarked on creating an open and flexible digital eco system that enables new business insights and opportunities, leveraging the power of data, while at the same time providing anytime, anywhere access to Bank’s customers, so we could be agile, quick to market and faster when implementing newer technologies. A strong core banking application was already here for our banking transactions, so we could then connect small micro-services to it through the API (application prog- ramming interface). So, our strategy was to start with implementation of the ecosystem, to enable us to move fast in the digital era.”
MauBank migrated to a newly-developed HR system, which interacts with a mobile banking application so that staff can now use their mobile to get details for approval. “Everything is digital. We have our internal social media platform too, and so the digital seed is already born in the staff. Now they are embracing the digital transformation and how it can benefit them.”
Once the internal landscape had been reconfigured the bank could focus its attention out towards the customer. MauBank began with paperless account opening at branches for walk-in customers using a workflow-based system from Laserfiche. Prabhu was then tasked with further enhancing the customer experience. “We were now ready to launch a unique mobile application to our customers that enables them to open accounts sitting in their homes using their National Identity Cards through technologies like OCR (optical character recognition) and RPA (robotic process automation). We are using the API to connect online with our core banking system for the creation of these accounts. As of last year, we introduced multiple features to our banking application to enable our 400,000-strong client base to enhance their experience and banking needs. In short, we are trying to take the bank to their homes, rather than them coming to us.”
Prabhu then focused his effort on bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine learning and NLP technologies to the bank and kickstarted the process with a simple FAQ chatbot, following on from the success of bots with more specific functions, onto the company’s website. “Our virtual assistant was the first full-fledged FAQ banking bot on the island. and it uses artificial intelligence in responding to the customer. When more questions are added, it can interpret and respond to the queries. The next phase is to take this conversational AI platform to the next level by providing transactional services.
As MauBank builds on the concept of bringing the bank into the home for its customers, Prabhu has now started working on enabling customers to apply for loans from their homes, with an online lending solution which leverages RPA and API technologies ready to launch in the near future.