Global Finance presented various awards for digital-banking excellence, and honored Middle East innovators, at a special ceremony in Dubai in September.

Author: Chloe Domat

Global Finance presented various awards for digital-banking excellence, and honored Middle East innovators, at a special ceremony in Dubai in September. Citibank first penetrated the Middle Eastern market more than 50 years ago. Today, it has more than 30 offices and branches spread over 10 countries in the region.

Not surprisingly, then, Citi was honored in a host of categories in Global Finance’s Best Digital Banks awards for the Middle East region. The global giant was recognized as Best Corporate/Institutional Digital Bank for the entire region, winning additional regional “bests” on the corporate side for Mobile Banking, Mobile Banking App and Innovation; and similar nods on the consumer side for Mobile Banking and for Information Security and Fraud Management. The bank notched country-level wins for Most Innovative Digital Bank in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar and the UAE, plus many other country-level subcategory awards.

“A clean sweep in all countries [in which] we operate,” Emre Karter, Citibank’s head of Treasury and Trade Solutions for the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Turkey, tweeted after the ceremony, “A proud moment!” Global Finance, a pioneer in recognizing the significance of digital banking, has been giving these awards for nearly two decades. This year, the Middle East awards were presented at a special ceremony at Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, following Global Finance’s Digital Banks and Innovators Conference on September 25. The full-day networking event gathered over 200 high-profile attendees representing banks, fintechs and support organizations to discuss trends, technology and the future of banking.

More than 240 financial institutions submitted entries this year. The awards are divided into two groups: one for Corporate/Institutional excellence and a separate set of acknowledgements on the Consumer side. Middle East applications came from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We’ve made quite a few changes this year to reflect the growing importance digital banking has had on the whole financial industry,” says Joseph Giarraputo, publisher of Global Finance

For example, the 2018 Best Digital Banks awards included a new award for digital mortgage banking, a fast-growing market all over the world and especially in the Middle East. The first to be honored in the region as Best Digital Mortgage Bank is Saudi Arabia’s Bidaya Home Finance, established in 2015 by the Saudi Public Investment Fund and the Islamic Development Bank as a Shariah-compliant real estate finance company to help Saudi nationals acquire property. 

The awards for Best Consumer Digital Bank in the Middle East, Best Integrated Consumer Banking Site and the regional Financial-Services Innovator honor went to Emirates National Bank of Dubai. In 2017, Dubai’s largest bank in assets committed to a three-year, 1 billion Emirati dirham ($272 million) digital-transformation plan aimed at catering better to the changing needs of its customers while maintaining a maximum level of security. Products it has launched recently include the region’s first blockchain-backed checkbook; a live video chat service with a personal banking adviser, called FaceBanking; and a mobile-only bank.

Regional winners on the consumer side also included Mashreq Bank, which won Best Mobile Banking App; Best SMS/Text Banking; and Best Online Deposit, Credit and Investment Product Offerings. Arab Bank took Best Website Design and Best in Social Media Marketing and Services. National Commercial Bank was named Most Innovative Digital Bank for consumers.

For the fourth year in a row, Kuwait’s Boubyan Bank confirmed its leading position in Shariah-compliant banking, receiving honors as the World’s Best Islamic Digital Bank as well as the region’s Best Islamic Digital Bank. Only 14 years old, Boubyan has developed products that combine innovation with Shariah compliance.

“This award crowns our efforts over a remarkable year in digital banking,” said Abdulla Al-Tuwaijri, deputy CEO of Boubyan Bank. “It places Boubyan Bank on the same level as global banks and is a new achievement for Kuwait’s financial and banking sector.”

Aside from Citi, big regional winners in the Corporate/Institutional categories included Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, named for Best Trade Finance Services and Best Integrated Corporate Website; Ahli United Bank, credited with the Best Online Cash Management; National Commercial Bank, named for Best Online Portal Services; and Commercial International Bank, which won Best Information Security and Fraud Management.

Global Finance also took this occasion to publicly recognize corporate and individual regional winners of Innovators honors. Omar Christidis, founder of Arabnet, a hub for Arab digital professionals and entrepreneurs to connect and learn, was named this year’s individual Middle East Innovator and also served as keynote speaker.

Emirates, the UAE’s largest airline, was named the Middle East’s top corporate innovator, for its forward-looking designs and operational strategies. “This year’s Middle East Innovators have broken new ground in their respective fields,” said Giarraputo. “We are proud to call attention to people and organizations that not only encourage and support creative thinking, but find ways to turn that thinking into viable solutions.”

The Middle East has a reputation as a fragmented region for banking, difficult to navigate across borders because of the disparities between markets. That’s one reason Global Finance decided to name category winners on a country-level basis, rather than just regionwide.

In Consumer categories, that change gave Blom Bank a clean sweep in Lebanon, and brought wins in Egypt for Best Mobile Banking and Most Innovative Digital Bank to Credit Agricole Egypt. Samba and SABB showed well in Saudi Arabia, while Investbank notched two wins in Jordan.

Arab Bank was the most panregional local, taking home wins in five different countries, including Bank of Distinction honors in Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon and Qatar. “Our staff in each country will be very happy that their work has been rewarded,” said Eric Modave, chief operating officer at Arab Bank. 

World's Best Digital Banks 2018 - Middle East Region

Consumer Sector Winners

Best Consumer Digital Bank Emirates NBD
Best Integrated Consumer Banking Site Emirates NBD
Best Digital Mortage Bank Bidaya Home Finance
Best Islamic National Bank Boubyan Bank
Most Innovative Digital Bank National Commercial Bank
Best Online Deposit, Credit and Investment Product Offerings Mashreq Bank
Best Mobile Banking App Mashreq Bank
Best SMS/Text Banking Mashreq Bank
Best in Mobile Banking Citi
Best Information Secutiry and Fraud Management Citi
Best Website Design Arab Bank
Best in Social Media Marketing and Services Arab Bank
Best Bill Payment and Presentment Standard Chartered

Corporate/Institutional Winners

Most Innovative Digital Bank Citi
Best in Mobile Banking Citi
Best Mobile Banking App Citi
Best Information Security and Fraud Management Commercial International Bank
Best Trade Finance Services Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
Best Integrated Corporate Website Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank
Best Online Portal Services National Commercial Bank
Best Online Cash Management Ahli United Bank