HBL Wants to be an IT Company with a Banking License

The CEO of Pakistan’s largest bank foresees that digitization will enable it to triple its customer acquisition capabilities around bring financial inclusion to the 100 million unbanked population.

“From my perspective, we have to start thinking that we’re an IT company with a banking license,” said Muhammad Aurangzeb, CEO & President of Habib Bank Limited (HBL), in an interview with Bloomberg. With 1,700 bank branches and 2,000 ATM’s all over the country, HBL acquires 1 million new customers a month. With the rollout of biometric devices nationwide that number is set to double or triple said, Aurangzeb.

“This is not about an app,” he said. “This is about big data, data analytics, and artificial intelligence so that you can bring the whole digital journey at HBL mainstream. And we are going to start moving some of the traffic in the branches on to the digital piece as well.”


We need to understand that more. We want to develop an understand and, to their credit, the retail teams are taking that approach.

Before doing so, HBL, which recently announced plans to launch operations in China, has made concerted efforts in introducing digital transformation for internal processes. With the primary customer pain point in banks being customer service and onboarding time, HBL has made headway in revamping how 26 processes and tasks are executed, streamlining them and placing customer satisfaction at the top.

This journey began in 2015 with the hiring of Abrar Ahmed Mir as the first Chief Innovation & Financial Inclusion Officer for HBL, the first hire of its kind for any bank in the country.

In this role, Mir has been instrumental in introducing a digital strategy and a data strategy for HBL, improving solution delivery capabilities with an in-house application development unit.


According to Atyab Tahir, Head of Digital Transformation at HBL, the digital strategy focuses on process digitization which covers points of friction for internal and external stakeholders.

“My team spent a good year and a half understanding about fifteen hundred processes across the bank,” Tahir told Branding in Asia. “Within those, we identified what was important, what was ready for a redesign, and what needed to be eliminated.”

Tahir found that a consequential amount of a branch tellers time is worn on answering customer questions which can be resolved on digital channels. These include account balance and whether a cheque will clear or not.

HBL headquarters in Karachi (WikiCommons)

“We are going into this push where we want to use the digital channels for high volume low-value transactions and use the branches for high-value transactions,” said Tahir. “What I see our branches evolving into is not just processing centers but a place where people come for genuine financial advice.”

HBL is in the final stages of a channel migration plan, which involves customer education regarding digital channels and activating customers that tried digital channels. The intended impact is that HBL’s eleven million customers will realize that they don’t need to visit a branch to check account balance, request a checkbook, or ask for a pay order.

“In 2019 we are going to focus on mapping customer journeys,” said Tahir, adding that his team is pouring through customer complaints that determine friction points during the acquisition and retention phase of the journey.

“We’re barely doing any cross-sell and needs assessment in the branches,” said Tahir. “We need to understand that more. We want to develop an understanding and, to their credit, the retail teams are taking that approach. To determine what questions the customer is asking and what questions are being asked. And how those questions are being answered by both parties.”

To pull this off, HBL has tapped Singapore’s ADDO AI to help develop the right skill set for data scientists with additional predication-based use cases around preventing churn and determining traffic based on location, applied to placements of ATM’s and branches.

The bank is also in the final stages of selecting a CRM solution that will bring uniformity across data reservoirs, be able to pick the right information from multiple unstructured data lakes and marry that information from social listening tools to create a customer journey profile.

Marrying the CRM with ZenDesk, HBL plans to become a formidable force in delivering frictionless customer experiences and end-to-end engagement strategy.

Babar Khan Javed

Babar Khan Javed

Babar Khan Javed is a Correspondent for Branding In Asia.

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