Middle East is known for its high temperatures and sandstorms. Now, a new kind of storm brings the heat to banks in the region. It’s called FinTech.
In recent weeks, “FinTech” has been in the news a lot in the UAE and the wider Middle East region. According to the emirate’s financial center’s management body, Dubai has seen a surge of interest from FinTech startups and banking assets over the last three years. No wonder it is fast becoming a destination for financial technology startups because of its location, private investment and innovation. Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFCA, stated that in the space of three years the financial hub went from hosting 1000 companies to 1715 and banking assets rose from $50 billion to $150 billion in the same period. He added that the financial services industry contributes about 12 percent to Dubai’s total gross domestic product and it is expected to increase to 18 percent by 2024.
Dubai’s neighbours are taking note, too. Bahrain is also bidding to attract FinTech start-ups to its shores, with the announcement in June of regulations for the creation of its own “sandbox” program. Saudi Arabia for its part has declared that FinTech will be an integral part of its Vision 2030 plan, aimed at reducing its dependence on oil revenues, with Qatar and Egypt also looking to get on the FinTech bandwagon.
Disruptive technology is great news for customers, but threatens the banks’ business. In the first decade of 21st century, FinTech innovators utilise cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, innovative technologies such as Blockchain, and the worldwide proliferation of smartphones to both automate and streamline internal processes within banks and financial service firms and to offer innovative new solutions that blur the line between finance and technology. FinTech enables faster, cheaper, more convenient or more accessible delivery of financial services and consumers like that. A lot. Such services can now be delivered efficiently, securely and more affordably by both established financial services companies, but also by smaller tech firms. To the alarm of big banks, customers are increasingly favouring services offered by the latter.
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