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Bahrain’s first mobile-only digital retail bank, ila Bank was launched this week by Bank ABC in the presence of government and CBB dignitaries as well as leaders of the region’s business community.
The ila Bank will provide a wide range of services exclusively through its mobile application, which is currently available for download on iOS and Android and is targeted at younger, tech-savvy customers, who ‘expect faster service, are better connected and always online.’
During a passionate address, the deputy group CEO Sael Al Waary highlighted features including all-digital on-boarding within minutes with the help of just two valid IDs and a selfie, an instant virtual card for online transactions, flexible funding options, multiple currency accounts, in-app card controls and an interest bearing current account that encourages saving. ila also features Fatema, as a first-of-its-kind AI powered customer assistant.
Sael said: “At Bank ABC, our ambition is to create a seamless banking experience that is attuned to our customer’s lifestyles. Less than two years ago, we promised to transform banking, and here we are delivering on our promise.”
The digital bank, which will be supported by 60 employees, is a legal entity separate from Bank ABC. According to the company, it has cutting-edge cyber security measures, including PCI certification and biometric access.
After on-boarding and receiving a virtual card instantly, customers will receive their lime-green ila Bank debit card by courier within one working day. The card which can be used online right away can be funded through salary transfer, Fawri+, money transfer, ATM deposit and Benefit Pay.
“Arabic for the word “to”, ila serves as an intuitive financial assistant that helps you move from where you are “to” where you want to be, ” Sael added, as he explained the rationale behind the name. “ila merges cutting-edge technology with human understanding and aligns banking with modern life.”
Currently, ila Bank has one ATM at Bank ABC’s head office in Manama but there are plans to open four more across the country. At the ATM, customers can deposit cash and cheques using the contactless debit card.
Customers are able to change their debit card PIN through the app, block their debit card and apply for credit cards through the app. According to Sael, the debit card will also offer tiers, based on account balances that come with a variety of lifestyle features, like lounge access.
The Benefit Pay funding option is the first-of-its-kind in Bahrain. Through an integrated screen, customers can select any card from any bank they already have in their Benefit Pay account, enter the amount they wish to draw from it, authorise the payment with PIN or biometrics and within seconds, the funds will appear in their ila Bank account.
Sael added: “ila’s features will continuously evolve as we learn more about our customer’s changing needs and demands. We will continue to gather customer insights and develop the future versions of ila with them.”
Users can also add foreign currency accounts, currently available in USD and GBP, which can be linked to their cards and used online or overseas when travelling, getting access to preferred exchange rates and eliminating the need to visit foreign exchanges.
Sael described this as “smarter banking” and informs that the ila team is already working on a new set of features for the app’s next version, which include digitising local funding traditions as well as money management solutions.
The concept of Jami’yah, a shared loan between friends, is being tested, as well as bill-splitting features. The app will also allow customers to easily monitor expenses, set budgets and auto-save with options like, rounding off (transferring “change” into a savings account)and fixed saving transfers per transaction, week or month.
Sael thanked the Bank ABC Board and executive management for their invaluable support and guidance, the CBB for its continuous support and recognised the unwavering commitment of all employees who are working on ila, ‘80%’ of whom are young and passionate Bahraini professionals.
“Today is just the start of our journey. We are shaping a new kind of banking with the creation of “ila Bank” – a bank that reflects you,” he concluded.