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Al Rayan Bank finds business agility in cloud applications

Al Rayan Bank believes its investment in cloud applications gives it an edge in business agility

Al Rayan Bank, the only Sharia-compliant bank in the western world, believes it can make changes more quickly than established banks, thanks to its investment in cloud applications.

Matthew Glover, head of IT and change delivery at Al Rayan Bank, says its use of cloud amounts to a competitive advantage against big banks, and its customer base of 60,000 gives it an edge against challenger banks which are similarly unburdened by legacy.

“We can make changes quickly. For example, we are now rebuilding our online account application system to make it more mobile friendly. That will take us three to four months using Salesforce, whereas for a major retail bank it would take years,” he says.

Being an Islamic bank makes Al Rayan’s business different, too. “Money has no intrinsic value in the Islamic faith,” says Glover. This means interest is forbidden. “We pay profit based on the investment we make with the money.”

When buying a house, rather than take out a loan plus interest mortgage, you pay rent to a bank, which buys the property for you, and a payment for the use of the share that the bank owns.

All contracts are written in an Islamic way, and no funding is raised from stock markets, which are considered too risky. And no investment is permitted in industries considered unethical, such as pornography, arms, tobacco, alcohol or gambling.

Glover is not himself Muslim, and neither are many of its customers, he says.

He heads a change-focused team of 14 IT and business professionals, and the bank employs 150 people altogether.

The IT estate is a mix of on-premise and cloud. Apart from the core banking system, which is a Misys platform running on an IBM AS/400, Salesforce is the most important part of the bank’s technology landscape.

March to the cloud

In 2009, the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), as it then was, as founded in 2004, began moving its customer relationship management (CRM) systems to the cloud. It deployed Salesforce in March 2010, initially implementing the supplier’s Sales Cloud to replace its existing Siebel CRM system.

At the end of 2011 into the beginning of 2012, the bank implemented a new online account application facility, including automatic anti-money laundering and anti-fraud checks, on the Salesforce platform. For around 80% of prospects, the entire process is done electronically and the account is set up straight away.

“Cloud is not right for everything. Its a balanced approach

Matthew Glover, Al Rayan Bank

By July 2014, 85% of IBB’s business was coming from its website and contact centre – a rise from 49% in July 2012.

Al Rayan Bank can now update its Home Purchase Plan product in a matter of hours, rather than the three or four days it took previously, and process customers’ home finance applications 10% faster.

The bank’s most recent use of Salesforce technology is cashiering, which was put in place in April 2015.

The plan is to get rid of technology that is “becoming legacy”, and Salesforce is more likely to be turned to than not.

A management information (MI) system is one of the big projects in the bank’s planning, alongside a refreshed mobility platform. “We want to make sure the browser experience in mobile is just as good as the app,” says Glover.

In relation to its MI and business intelligence (BI) capabilities, the bank is looking at using Salesforce’s cloud-based Wave data analytics product. Better reporting and clearer customer analytics, predicting future behaviour, are the goals.

The bank is looking at Tableau and Qlik, as well as Salesforce technology for BI. For other aspects of its business, it has looked at Sugar CRM and Microsoft Dynamics.

Not just chatter

But one area where Salesforce is proving its business value for the bank lies in the use of Chatter, the social enterprise element.

“Everyone is on Chatter,” says Glover. “There is a head office group, a recognition board for things done well, and ‘could do better’ boards. It is the means of distribution for corporate messages – for instance, from our CEO.

“The thing is our employees are on Salesforce all the time. Admittedly, it was a slow grower, but it is better than an intranet and more interactive than email. People like to use it, it’s similar to Facebook.

“It would be hard to say if it has made us more productive, but it is better for getting the message out quicker than email,” he adds.

The bank’s overall approach is to try to combine on-premise with cloud IT to be as effective as possible, says Glover. “Our core banking system is on-premise, our corporate website is on Azure, and we use Salesforce, which has high uptime and reliability. But cloud is not right for everything. It’s a balanced approach.”

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