AMEinfo interviews Ishaq Al Khan, Division Head, Commercial Banking
Typically, each year, SMEs in the UAE open new bank accounts, proudly announcing their Eureka moments and plans to grow the business.
“Unfortunately, the majority close down within the first year. That’s the nature of the business,” Ishaq Al Khan, Division Head of Sales & Coverage, Commercial Banking in ADCB, told AMEinfo in an exclusive interview.
New owners are not very experienced going into business the first time, and might overspend on unnecessary items, bringing operating costs to a breaking point.
Also, the fact is that in year two, out of the remaining companies, more will fail for various other reasons.
“SMEs have a big turnover, and still represent 90%-95% of economic output in any country. ADCB knows that and we want to be part of the full customer journey to support SMEs every step along the way.”
One way to do that is by having a Universal Relationship Manager (URM) track, support and guide SMEs towards their personal and professional goals.
Universal Relationship Managers: ADCB’s seamless single point of contact for SME clients
ADCB has in place relationship managers (RMs) across different segments, but URMs are individuals that provide a seamless single point of contact for both personal and commercial relationships.
“We answered ADCB customers’ feedback flagging the need to look at merging both personal and commercial relationships, allowing URMs to better cater to clients banking requirements,” said Mr. Al Khan.
“The URM is looking at a segment defined between AED 5 million and AED 150 million in commercial turnover and personal relationships of more than AED 500 thousand.”
A 360 degree, service-centric role focused on delivery
ADCB Universal Relationship Managers need to understand how the customer thinks and behaves, be able to identify opportunities for customers and attempt to address any challenges the customer may have.
“URMs have strong knowledge on the portfolio requirements of relationship management, and are well versed on both sides of the business, meaning the commercial and personal side of the relationship in terms of solutions offered,” explained Mr. Al Khan.
He added: “If no solutions exist, we can apologize, but the service delivery has to be there, regardless of outcomes.”
URMs face two main challenges: the amount of knowledge they have to have at hand, and their focus.
“We do all the training necessary, build and update their know-how, but the amount of the knowledge needed might be a bit overwhelming for URMs, at least at first,” said Mr. Al Khan.
“Human tendency is to go towards the path of least resistance, so if a URM is really good on the personal side, he or she might tend to focus more on that and not as much on the commercial side,” added Mr. Al Khan. “So we always have to bring them back to engage for both.”
So how do ADCB URMs go about the business of looking after their SMEs?
Exploring opportunities together with customers: balancing digital and brick and mortar needs
Under both personal and commercial offerings, ADCB has in place digital platforms and initiatives that act as triggers for Universal Relationship Managers to explore different opportunities with the customer.
URMs could stumble upon a fact that a client, a self-employed professional, has in fact another company, subsidiary, or otherwise, under his/her portfolio.
“URMs would facilitate opening a new online account for that other company, and can cross over to the client’s family members, allowing for more opportunities to engage with and benefit the customer and his circles of influence,” said Mr. Al Khan.
Today, the personal relationship is changing with 85-90% of all transactions enabled via internet banking, emails, and various other digital channels and requests.
“In customer relationship management, you have to look at the operational side where the customer doesn’t want to be bothered with physically coming to the branch. On the other hand, other clients may need a personal touch and eye to eye contact,” said Mr. Al Khan, adding that URM’s job is also to find the right balance between digital and brick and mortar client needs.
“I don’t think we will reach a stage where we can 100% eliminate human interference. Especially when you need to sit down and talk to somebody about future planning, investment protection, and while some of it is digital, the human element needs to be there,” opined Mr. Al Khan.
But on a typical day, ADCB’s URMs engage in push and pull actions.
Pull activities are prompted by ADCB customers and having oversight of both relationships, URMs understand their customers’ needs and this helps improve speed and delivery efficiencies.
“URMs are also encouraged to initiate ‘push options’, where they analyze customer behaviors, and cater offerings tailored to their clients’ tastes and preferences,” said Mr. Al Khan.
ADCB continuously strives to be at the core of that customer journey, no matter how simple or complex it is.
ADCB’s customer centricity: following and supporting SMEs’ journey
The COVID-19 era has placed unexpected burdens on SMEs and borrowers and ADCB has fully supported any loan deferral requests, initially for 3-months, following which time a further 3-months extension could be granted pending an appraisal of conditions.
“In addition we have reduced account fees and minimum balance charges. When SMEs come to us and face difficulties getting new funding, we have different solutions. We engage scorecard lending under the Etihad Credit Bureau program, and we’re developing micro-loans to cater to small business segments (Sanadakum) because they are the most neglected in any economy,” said Mr. Al Khan.
Getting to where SME businesses are with ADCB is testament to their efforts to build sustainable endeavors but also speaks volumes of the bank’s vision of incubating business in close proximity to customers.
Customer centricity applies to all commercial loans and follows the customers’ journey every time they ‘graduate’ from one stage to the next, from a simplified working capital, to more elaborate financials needed to buy equipment, expand and grow the business.
“We closely follow and support SMEs’ journey until they start needing more complex operations where ADCB comes in to fill working capital gaps, while understanding the full cash flow of the business, who the creditors and debters are, and going into full balance sheets analysis,” clarified Mr. Al Khan.
Faithfully fostering a centric and seamless relationship with customers
ADCB’s URM SME service is being offered for excellency members, high net worth individuals who have relationships above AED 500k in personal assets.
“These personal accounts might have over 500k but the owner might still be running an SME company account turning over only AED 25 million,” explained Al Khan.
“From uneasy early steps to business adulthood, ADCB’s main concern remains to faithfully foster a centric and seamless relationship with its customers,” concludes Al Khan.
Always tailored to your business: this article is powered by ADCB.