Stewart Lockie Discusses the Opportunities in Retail Banking

Stewart Lockie, General Manager of retail banking in ABK

Stewart Lockie, General Manager of retail banking in ABK, discusses the opportunities in retail banking.

How do you see the year ahead for retail banking in the region? Are you optimistic about growth?

  • Aligned to economic growth reports from ratings agencies (S&P, Moody’s), we are expecting solid growth in 2019.
  • Our growth predictions are aligned with S&P forecasts, who are predicting lending growth forecasts to remain in the mid-single digits, on the back of stable oil prices.
  • From ABK’s perspective, over the last 5 years, on average, ABK’s asset growth has exceeded that of the Kuwait market and we expect to continue this trend into 2019.

Al Ahli Bank has launched a lot of innovative products/services in 2018. Which ones are seeing the strongest uptake and which have the greatest potential for growth in 2019?


  • We developed a range of offerings aligned to specific customer and segment needs with a strong focus on payments and digital solutions:
  • In the payments space:
    • ABK secure pay services for Mastercard provides added safety, security and convenience for our customers shopping online using the 3D secure service.
    • Customer convenience in the form of “Tap or Go” payments at POS machines has become available with the introduction of new NFC (Near Field Communications) technology on MasterCard products.
  • In the digital space:
    • Cardless withdrawals, where customers are able to withdraw cash from ATMs using their mobile phones.
    • Global Account View, where customers can view their account details across the ABK Group using a single login.
    • Civil ID update, allowing customers to fulfill basic KYC requirements using the ATM, at their convenience without needing to visit a branch


  • We will continue with a similar approach in 2019, building customer centric solutions with the customer journey in mind. Ultimately these will focus on both traditional retail offerings with payment and digital solutions at the forefront.

What challenges are you facing in the retail banking sector at the moment?

  • Increasing Customer Expectations – In a market such a Kuwait, against a backdrop of high GDP, disposable income, online activity and frequent travel, customer’s expectations of banking are being driven not just by industry leaders, but from outside of the industry.
    Whether this is Google, Apple or more locally Emirates, the bar is being raised when it comes to customer experience, service and the overall journey. As a bank we are committed to a strategy that will build on digital solutions, simplicity and service excellence.
    Ultimately, despite a young local demographic in Kuwait, we are still focused on meeting the needs of current and future customers and so we are committed to an omni channel presence that provides the customer with the right level of service/ advice at a place that is right for them, whether it be a physical branch, call centre or internet banking.
  • Big Data – This is both an opportunity and a challenge. This represents one of the most exciting opportunities in consolidating both internal (demographics, transactional)and external data (social media, behavioral), which will allow better predictive profiles of customers in real time. Customer data that is rich, accessible and accurate will give us a better customer understanding, enabling us to offer advice and develop propositions based on predictive modelling.
  • Payments – as the infrastructure of payments continues to evolve, innovation is likely to move the payments industry from developing “stand alone” products to more “holistic” solutions, becoming a part of everything consumers do across their everyday lives. Linking back to dig data, differentiation will come from a combination of rich data, technology and excellence in service and delivery.
  • Competition – the competition of the future will be different from the competition of yesterday. Big tech companies with substantial customer bases (Amazon, Facebook, AliBaba) are venturing into retail banking and it’s their understanding of customer behavior and spending patterns combined with agility when it comes to payment solutions that makes them a threat.

What do you expect to be the sweet spots in retail banking in 2019?

  • Customer expectations – As previously mentioned, customer expectations are being driven by both banking and non banking experiences and we will continue to focus on our core strengths whilst monitoring changing trends in the digital, payments and customer experience space.
  • From a customer viewpoint, ease and convenience need to be balanced with safety and security.
  • Simplification – In a world of complexity, simplification of products and services will become an important tool in differentiation along with a focus on service. From a retail banking perspective, most customers want to open an account, save money, get a credit card or take a loan. This strategy of simplification has the approach of focusing on both our employees and customers.

How are you working with fintechs?

The industry as a whole (ABK is no exception) is now treating fintechs as an opportunity, not a threat as previously perceived. We have and will continue to work with Fintechs in a way that supports our business strategy and ultimately provides the best solutions for our customers.

This will include collaboration in the space of: AI, Robotics, Cyber Security and Big Data. (what we would define as A2 B2 C2)

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