With assets of over $49bn, Samba Financial Group is one
of the leading players in the Saudi Arabian financial industry. Its
latest smartphone initiative demonstrates how the bank is utilising
cutting-edge technology to bolster its position, as Victoria Conroy
Samba Financial Group has an impressive track record in the
Saudi Arabian banking industry. This is not surprising considering
the group’s origins. Samba (formerly the Saudi American Bank), was
incorporated in 1980, having taken over the two branches of
Citibank which had been opened in 1955 and 1966 respectively.
Building the legacy of Citi’s
operational and technical expertise, Samba has since expanded to
offer a range of services in the Middle East region, such as a
range of Islamic banking products including Sharia-compliant credit
cards and the first Sharia-compliant ladies credit card in the
Kingdom, along with mobile banking and trading capabilities.
Samba has one of the most
widespread distribution networks in the Middle East, including 496
ATMs in Saudi Arabia and 66 branches (including 25 women-only
branches). Aside from offering traditional retail banking services,
Samba is also making a name for itself in the region by utilising
new payment technologies in both the consumer and corporate
Its Global Transaction Services unit is modelled on the same
lines as Citi’s unit of the same name, offering an extensive
portfolio of web-based cash management and trade finance
transactional and advisory services.
The division has managed to
establish and sustain a reputation as an innovator in the field
with many services being introduced for the first time in the
Kingdom or the Middle East.
The key component of Samba’s
corporate internet banking infrastructure is ‘SambaAccess’, Samba’s
web-enabled electronic banking platform. SambaConnect is an
internet payment gateway for web merchants launched in 2004.
The bank also introduced
Purchase@SambaConnect, an online shopping mall, providing
e-commerce functionality to customers who do not have a
Samba’s latest initiative brings it
into the realm of financial institutions making use of smartphones
as a way of recruiting new customers and strengthening
relationships with existing ones.
At the end of August 2010, Samba
launched mobile banking applications for the Apple iPhone and
Blackberry devices. The ‘Samba Smart Solutions’ service
incorporates a range of transactions, allowing customers to check
their accounts, make payments and transfer funds through their
mobile phones at any time, wherever they are.
Once the application has been
installed onto the relevant device, Samba customers can log in to
their banking accounts and conduct transactions in the same way
they do to log into Samba’s online banking service. For the Apple
iPhone, Samba customers can download the free iPhone app, from
Apple’s iTunes website, while the Samba Blackberry app is available
for free download at the Samba online banking site.
In the interest of customer
protection and information security, Samba has already launched a
two-factor authentication security feature, providing online and
mobile banking customers with an electronic token that generates a
unique password to authenticate customers’ identities each time
they log in.
“Internet and mobile banking
services are fast becoming spectacular gateways for information,
sales, service and perhaps the most versatile channels for customer
interaction,” said Samba chairman Eisa Al Eisa said.
“Mobile banking is a direct,
convenient and hugely innovative service that proudly reaffirms
Samba’s place as an innovator in technology driven customer
Expanding into corporate
Samba’s initiatives in technology-based solutions also extend to
the corporate space – and builds upon its rapidly expanding Islamic
In April, it partnered with Sejel,
which operates and develops the Hajj and Umrah information centre
(aimed at the millions of Muslim visitors who descend on Mecca for
the annual pilgrimage), to implement an automated payments system
for this year’s Hajj season.
The move represents a significant
leap forward in the field of Umrah automated payments services,
combining speed, flexibility and security.
The new system will provide an
automated payments solution for collecting payments relating to
Umrah packages based on the principle of processing applications
for Umrah after the receipt of the amounts to be paid. The system
will distribute the applications to the companies and entities
involved in the provision of Umrah services in the Kingdom.
Al Eisa, described the cooperation
agreement with Sejel as being an example of the sort of partnership
efforts that Samba seeks to achieve with various government and
private sector organisations to contribute to achieving the
aspirations and vision of the leadership in the Kingdom,
particularly with regard to visitors of the Holy sites, a top
priority for the Kingdom.
Sejel CEO Ahmed Ghumri stated that the relevant parties in Umrah
services will see marked improvements upon application of the new
solution, as it supports the distribution of financial receivables
for companies in an immediate and safe manner. This will constitute
an added value to the level of services provided.