‘When we talk about retail banking, the major key for success is technology that will help you deliver the best products and will help you know your customers,’ he said in a keynote speech to 150 delegates at the event.

Technology has transformed NBK’s operations and its relationship with its customers. ‘Only 15 per cent of our customers go to branches,’ Dabdoub said. ‘Call centres account for 38 per cent and automated teller machines for 37 per cent. We have introduced online banking and now have 60,000 customers.’ Dabdoub said the NBK call centre now deals with 1 million calls a month and this figure is growing.

‘Because of the sophistication of our service delivery channels, we are trying to drive our customers out of the branches,’ Dabdoub said. ‘We now have only five-six people in each branch and more of them are advisers rather than tellers.’

Dabdoub said that the branch still has a future. ‘People want a physical branch,’ he said. ‘They want a bank they can see where they can talk to a branch manager.’

‘Customer relationship management is key for long-lasting profitable relationships,’ Dabdoub continued. This entails developing the ability to sell products to each customer individually regardless of distribution channel. ‘Personalisation is the new competitive paradigm,’ Dabdoub said.

Dabdoub, who has headed NBK since 1983, said the strategy has paid off in higher profits and return on capital for the bank. Its return on assets in 2001 was 2.6 per cent compared with 0.9 per cent in 1983 and its return on equity rose to 25.4 per cent from 14.1 per cent over the same period.