Banks in the UAE and Qata lead regional “reputational net sentiment,” according to the first-ever GCC banking sentiment index that has been designed to quantify the experiences and sentiments of consumers within the GCC banking sector.

Reputational net sentiment --- a composite metric gauging customer satisfaction derived by subtracting negative sentiment from positive sentiment and adjusting for the total volume of conversation --- was spearheaded by the UAE and closely followed by Qatar. The UAE garnered praise that accounted for 21.1 per cent of its conversation, according to the index report released by KPMG in collaboration with DataEQ.

Saudi Arabian consumers were the most engaged online, as Saudi banks dominated the GCC’s banking conversation while Qatar topped the overall net sentiment rankings, followed by Bahrain, which was second highest, said the report that analysed consumer sentiment towards 20 banks in the GCC by tracking an extensive dataset comprising 3,965,821 X (formerly known as Twitter) posts from May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023.

“Understanding consumer sentiment in the GCC’s banking sector is a complex, multifaceted undertaking, which has brought to light key areas of significance for consumers and banks alike. The data-led insights gained through this report not only reflect the past year but will likely serve as a critical metric for brands aiming to evolve their strategies in a consumer-centric direction,” said Abbas Basrai, partner, head of Financial Services and Financial Risk Management at KPMG Lower Gulf.

Melanie Malherbe, chief commercial officer at DataEQ, said social data offers organizations an unfiltered view of what consumers really think about them and their competitors. “With the rise of social media usage as a servicing channel, specifically in the banking landscape, these platforms house an untapped data pool that can be structured and analysed in real-time, providing valuable insights into customer experience, product, pricing, and conduct feedback.

Saudi Arabia dominated the conversation within the GCC’s banking sector with an overwhelming 83.3 per cent of total online conversation, demonstrating that Saudi consumers are far more active than their neighbours and more vocal about the banking industry as a whole.

The survey was not short of negative complaints by consumers online from all countries, with comparisons between two or more banks visible in consumer-shared experiences. Major areas of complaint for consumers overall included service issues, app downtime, and long wait times.

However, while the UAE led with the highest proportion of positive mentions, garnering praise that accounted for 21.1 per cent of its conversation, this was only 0.9 percentage points higher than Qatar, the next country in line. Praise was driven by successful partnerships, strong financial performance, Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives and customer service.

When it came to Net Sentiment, Qatar emerged as the clear leader with a positive Net Sentiment score of 7.8 per cent. A variety of factors contributed to this, including favorable financial performance and the introduction of much-anticipated remittance services. One key driver was the implementation of UPI (Unified Payment Interface) remittance for instant fund transfers to India, a feature highly appealing to expats in the country. Collaborations with third parties to enhance cross-border payments also contributed to Qatar’s high Net Sentiment score.

The report noted that the GCC banking sector has experienced steady growth due to infrastructure projects, economic diversification efforts, and a young, affluent population driving demand for various banking services.

“Cross-border banking activities are common within the GCC, facilitated by economic integration agreements. Additionally, regulatory bodies in each country closely supervise the banking sector to maintain stability and ensure compliance with international standards. Overall, the industry is characterised by innovation, strong regulation, and a focus on adapting to global financial trends.”

In its GCC Banking Sector Outlook 2024, Fitch predicts that the UAE and Saudi Arabia will have the most robust return on assets forecasts, and their elevated levels of capitalisation position them favourably when compared to both their regional and global peers. Analysts at Fitch Ratings said the UAE banking sector growth will be driven by robust credit demand stemming from dynamic non-oil sectors and comprehensive economic diversification programs in both countries.


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