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CIH Bank Morocco: A successful digital transformation with Sopra Banking Software

24 09 2019

With Sopra Banking’s support, CIH Bank has successfully transformed its IT infrastructure, becoming a truly multi-channel and agile organization. And the figures show just how important such a transformation has proved to be.

Toward the end of 2009, CIH Bank realized it needed to overhaul its IT infrastructure. Driss Bennouna -- Head of Digital Strategy within IT at CIH Bank – explained, “Our systems had become highly obsolete. It was this technology gap that meant the investment was essential for the company.”
The Moroccan bank -- which was created in 1920 as a real estate specialist and, over the years, went on to become a universal bank, having explored the option of implementing an integrated banking solution -- opted for best of breed. For the back office, the solution essentially involved updating pre-installed software. For the front office, the solution meant redefining all applications based on the multi-channel concept. 
“Our legacy systems, which were designed in the 1990s, made the branch the focus of the banking relationship,” Bennouna says. “Our key challenge consisted of putting the customer back at the heart of our business model.” This outdated system was best exemplified by the balance management function, which due to its partitioned nature, meant that transactions weren’t visible until way after they were made – sometimes by as much as 72 hours. The first investment CIH Bank made was to introduce a “minute-by-minute” update as part of its transformation program.

Redesigning business management, then operations

Sopra Banking quickly rallied to guide the Moroccan bank through its transformation. Sopra leveraged its experience and insight into CIH Bank’s needs, as well as its capacity to align ready-to-use components, ultimately reducing the overall implementation time. What’s more, Sopra’s solution provided the bank with guarantees in terms of inter-software communication, a key success factor for a fully multi-channel system. 
At the start of 2013, the project was launched with two phases. The first was to redesign the business relationship, forging new relationships with customers, creating third parties, business repositories, contract repositories and centralizing the pricing. The second phase focused on a full review of operations.
The program drew on clear architecture choices. The solution used a micro services and API-based approach in order to maintain a clear separation between the distribution and production layers, which was crucial to ensure the project’s success. 
The application architecture was based on centralized contracts and third-party repositories. “That’s how today we’re able to offer customers a different banking experience that is both remote and in real time,” says Bennouna.    
“Today, CIH Bank is the first bank on the market to be genuinely multi branch, multichannel and cross channel,” Bennouna goes on to say, summarizing the outcome. 
Offering the same process across all channels reflects a real advantage, according to Badr Argane, Head of Professional Services in Morocco and Mauritania at Sopra Banking Software. CIH Bank was able to become the first Moroccan bank to offer its customers a 100 percent digital wallet. “From an IT point of view,” he says, “it’s just an additional channel.
“Similarly, separating production and distribution reduces the time to market impressively,” according to Argane. As a result, CIH Bank was able to launch a digital product, targeting young customers rapidly -- a key differentiation factor in a market where 60 percent of the population is under 30-years-old.
Today, the bank’s digital transformation is paying off. In three years, CIH Bank has significantly increased its client base. In 2016, CIH Bank posted 300,000 remote transactions per year. In 2019, that number is set to rise to over 7 million! 

Staying ahead in a rapidly changing market 

Of course, technology has been a key factor in CIH Bank’s transformation success, but so has people. Argane says it’s important not to overlook the relationship between the bank and Sopra Banking. “With this sort of project, only a partnership based on transparency, enables you to achieve your goals,” he says. “You have to take decisions quickly, otherwise the project will inevitably drift.”
Above all, CIH Bank’s rapid transformation instilled a culture of momentum and dynamism. This focused the organization on on-going transformation. Previously, a system change would take a year. Now, an agile approach means a raft of new features can be delivered every six weeks. As a result, the IT department’s in-house “customers” are increasingly demanding! It’s a new way of working for everyone, right up to executive management.
Today, CIH Bank is brimming with ideas for new projects. “With our digital transformation, we were a market leader, and now our competition is playing catch up. So, we’re thinking about our next move to stay ahead,” Bennouna says.
A mobile payments project driven by the Moroccan Central Bank and a payment solution targeted at still-reluctant customers would enable the bank to fine tune its systems. All organizations would be starting from the same position when the project is launched. “We must be a forerunner in order to attract the maximum amount of customers,” Bennouna says. CIH Bank is relying on its IT agility and its organization to seize this opportunity. 

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