Mahmood Qannati
Head of Marketing & Communications, Al Salam Bank

January is usually a month associated with new beginnings, making and breaking resolutions, and making travel plans for the months ahead – but this is no ordinary time. What sort of headspace are you in as 2021 kicks off?

I am going into 2021 knowing it’s not going to be much different. The external challenges will remain and might even get tougher. Having said that, I have stopped looking at 2020 as an odd year – this is the turning point as far as new norms are concerned. In my mind, I’m adjusting to this being the new ordinary. Once you do that, you will be able to act upon it in your social and work life.

Between virtual schooling, working remotely, and e-commerce more indispensable than ever before, a lot of industries recently experienced drastic changes that are likely to be permanent. What can you tell us about how the banking industry evolved?

I believe banks adapted extremely fast. This is because they realised the importance of digital years ago, and 2020 only helped accelerate the adoption. The other positive outcome of 2020 is that it helped those banking customers who weren’t comfortable with online banking to embrace it. The pace of banking digitisation will only increase from now on. The new challenge will be information security and scope of services. As banks all stack the same digital services to their arsenal, the competitive edge may become tactical offerings, such as interest rates and promotional campaigns. In my view, the winning bank will be the one that clearly identifies and establishes its differentiated brand promise. Digital alone will not do that.

2020 was a year that forced us to spend a lot more time here on the island as leisure travel practically became non-existent. Did you discover anything new or interesting here in Bahrain as a result?

Yes, absolutely. We never realised how amazing our hospitality industry is because we were never its primary target market, but in the last eight months, my family and I booked four staycations in four different hotels. The guest experiences, food, and facilities are exceptionally great. What’s even greater is not having to struggle in airports and face jetlag in order to enjoy a relaxing time with family. I encourage everyone to give it a shot and see for themselves.