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Segregated banking in Saudi

With Gulf women set to control $385 billion of assets by 2011, more and more single-sex lenders are opening their doors in KSA.

April 21, 2010 4:56 by

Al Rajhi Bank recently announced the opening of its new Ladies’ Wealth Management Division in Riyadh to meet the growing demand for financial services by Saudi women and to expand the company’s service offerings.

In addition, the National Commercial Bank (NCB) has dedicated 46 branches and offices to serve the segment, says Ayman Al-Tayyar, NCB’s head of Branch Network Division.

“Being a bank that provides financial solutions to customers, our product portfolio is currently fit for both genders. Nevertheless we do see the need for more tailored products for ladies, especially in investments and credit cards, and those are in the pipeline,” he said.

Asked how NCB develops financial products for women, Al-Tayyar said: “Communication methods and channels are different. Moreover, differences in market and culture play a role in defining needs and demands in the market.” Working women will be marketed to differently compared with women who stay at home, he said.

“Marketing strategies will be defined based on type of product offered, the services being offered and the positioning based on the needs of the targeted segments,” he added.

So is there any chance that technological advances in online banking will render the new women’s branches obsolete? Al-Tayyar thinks not.

“In this era of technology and speed, demand is always growing. In order to maintain a high level of service to our customers and to meet the demand of this rapid growth there is a need to create alternative channels, and online banking is one of these channels. Nevertheless, basic banking, if we can call it that, will always remain the main channel,” Al-Tayyar said.

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