KARACHI: Brining new innovation in the banking industry, Bank Alfalah is all set to launch Pakistan’s first completely “Digital Lifestyle Branch” in Karachi today (Thursday) with a 24/7 banking (self) services aimed to break down barriers to financial access and facilitate the customers.
Bank Alfalah is heavily investing in digital transformation to bring innovation in Internet, mobile and branchless banking to provide unique, easy and fastest services to its customer.
Mehreen Ahmed, head of Retail Banking Group of Bank Alfalah, told Business Recorder on Wednesday that this is an innovative, multi-faceted flagship digital lifestyle branch and promises to stand apart in delivering a very unique customer experience.
The Digital Lifestyle Branch represents Bank Alfalah’s commitment to customer-centricity, financial inclusion, digital empowerment, innovation, and community engagement.
“We are not only bringing some of our tried, tested and successful digital offerings to this branch, but there has been a conscious effort to come up with some new digitally driven solutions along with some lifestyle benefits”.
She said that launching Pakistan’s first digital lifestyle branch is a cornerstone of redefining the banking landscape, which will serve as a catalyst for transformation for the industry to follow in Pakistan. The branch aims to complete re-imaging the customer journeys and is designed to fulfil people’s financial as well as lifestyle needs.
Mehreen said that with the support and regulatory approvals from the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), the Bank Alfalah is formally launching the first-ever “Digital Lifestyle Branch” on June 1, 2023 to give a new banking experience to the banking customers. “People visiting the branch will experience an array of unprecedented services that have never been provided under one roof marking a new era of banking convenience”, she added.
The state-of-the-art digital lobby with a 24/7 self-service area in the Digital Lifestyle Branch is providing multiple banking services to the banking customers even if they don’t have bank accounts in the Bank Alfalah.
She informed that multiple banking services are being provided at this Digital Lifestyle Branch that comprising an impressive suite of self-service options that includes Cash Deposit Machines (CDMs), Cheque and Cash Deposit Machines (CCDMs) and Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are available at this branch.
These ATMs are enabled for withdrawal of Rs 1 million in a single day and up to Rs 200,000 in a single transaction. In addition, a Virtual Service Machine (VSM) for instant account opening, with a companion debit card issued instantly is also available at this digital branch. Secure digital lockers’ facility is being provided at this branch and customers can use it at any time of the day or night without any staff interaction, she added.
Further, a very simplified shopping experience for instant purchases from the online Buy Now Pay Later store on zero-percent mark-up on instalments, both Islamic and conventional options are available at this branch. In addition, a much faster facility of consumer loans is available through a dedicated Consumer Finance counter, while specialised staff providing customized consultative advisory.
The flagship branch will also serve as a hub for socializing with on-the-go and sit-in cafe options in collaboration with Xander’s a strong name in Karachi, which is introducing ‘Premo’, a new brand specially designed keeping the targeted audience in mind. Customers will also have the ease of booking co-working spaces for short-term and extended durations via Work Hall integration.
Mehreen said that the Digital Lifestyle Branch will also help to enhance financial inclusion in Pakistan as Bank Alfalah aim is to break down barriers to financial access and empower young individuals with the knowledge and resources necessary to participate fully in the formal financial system.
“We will provide specialized financial advisory to young people on savings and investments, which is fundamental to making this segment more financially responsible so they can contribute to the country’s economy”, she added. The Digital Lifestyle Branch represents Bank Alfalah’s commitment to customer-centricity, financial inclusion, digital empowerment, innovation, and community engagement, she said.
An enhanced customer experience leading to better utilization of our diversified product suite, increased transactions, executed smoothly and quickly and availability of 24/7 services, she said and added that the branch hopefully will help in cross-pollination within our branch network with more and more branches asking for advanced digital solutions for their customers.
Talking about the challenges for setting up this unique branch, Mehreen said that transitioning from traditional retail banking to a multi-faceted digital branch entails various challenges and major challenge was availability of skilled workforce.
“Some of the team members have been trained extensively, for months to build the required level of expertise and getting them out of a traditional banking mindset, putting them on something unprecedented requires a lot of passion, focus and receptiveness to unlearn and re-learn”, she mentioned.
Secondly, customer adoption is key, bank realized that different customers would be at different levels of digital awareness, therefore, specialized staff will not only help the customers to take them through various steps in a product purchase or a transaction, but they will be there for financial advisory for more complex solutions, she added.
Talking about the expansion of the digital branch network, Head of Retail Banking Bank Alfalah said that this first branch serves as a “concept” store, and demonstrates the bank’s passion to innovate and try out new ideas, of course on the back of customer insights and years of experience in building digital products and journeys.
“We will recognize the growing demand for digitally driven banking and the goal has to be to keep expanding our digital lifestyle branch footprint”, she added.
Bank Alfalah for the past many years is working on digital solutions and in 2018, Bank Alfalah launched its digital banking group, setting a high standard for the industry to follow with its Alfa app.
“Recent data reveals that an impressive 77 percent of New-to-Bank (NTB) account holders clearly prefer digital transactions, favouring digital channels over traditional methods. Rising penetration of digital banking and customers’ behaviour are the basic reason to start this new journey of opening digital branches”, she mentioned.
Mehreen informed that in 2022, the bank was awarded the best ‘Digital Bank’ and ‘Housing Finance’ across Pakistan, highlighting its commitment to simplifying and improving the financial capabilities of its customers. The branch is designed specifically to cater to the needs of the people on the go who lead fast-paced lives with speed, accessibility, and convenience as their top priorities, she explained.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023