The first banking merger ever to take place in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was always going to break new ground. But no one could have expected that it would also take place during a global pandemic.
The strategic case for merging the Saudi British Bank (SABB) and the Alawwal Bank was strong. Combined, the two firms would be the third-largest bank in the kingdom, with 1.7 million retail customers and 27,000 corporate and institutional customers. The merger would create a larger retail banking distribution network for SABB, along with a new leader in import & export banking and the second-biggest corporate bank in the kingdom.
But the hurdles facing the merger were formidable. Seamlessly integrating two sets of complex banking systems with minimal downtime while maintaining strict regulatory compliance would be a true challenge in change management. Doing it for the first time in Saudi Arabia’s history would be pioneering. Succeeding in the midst of a pandemic would be extraordinary.
When tech meets human ingenuity
SABB chose Accenture to craft and execute its five-phase migration plan, which began with analysis of the current and target IT stacks. Accenture assembled a team of 10 different nationalities spread across 15 locations. Over 90% of the team was able to work from home through the entire migration process while connecting with virtual tools.
SABB drove the success of the merger by sticking to six key principles throughout:
Strong central governance and change control processes
Timely availability of test data and tools
Timely availability of skilled personnel, both internal and external
A responsive defect management process and support model for fast resolution of problems
Use of high-quality data on source systems
In-depth cut-over planning and rehearsals for migration events
In the midst of the merger, SABB also delivered its first-ever mental wellbeing initiative in the Middle East with help from Accenture.
A valuable difference
In a single weekend, all of Alawwal’s customers, products and services were successfully migrated to the new unified IT ecosystem. This included half a million retail banking customers, 4,500 corporate and treasury customers, and 90,000 Alawwal Invest customers. No functionality or product features for Alawwal customers were downgraded or changed during the migration—which meant improving SABB’s IT stack in places. Where this occurred, existing SABB customers also benefitted from the upgrades.
SABB is now a stronger, more diverse bank, offering a wide range of innovative services supported by a robust, comprehensive IT infrastructure. The newly combined bank also has unmatched business banking capabilities.
At the highest level, the successful IT integration gives the bank the technological backbone it needs for its aspirational journey to become the bank of choice in the region—and the confidence that even a global pandemic can’t derail a strategic acquisition.