How fintech is reshaping finance in the UAE


The finance industry in the UAE is set to undergo a digital revolution thanks to a rapid advance in technology.

A range of start-ups have emerged in the UAE’s financial market recently, offering innovative alternatives to traditional banking methods and serviced not currently financed by banks.

In the 7 years since the financial crisis that caused an unmeasurable shift in global banking, the rise of technology has resulted in a wave of new invention which experts say will leave institutions behind should they fail to adapt to industry agendas.

With the potential for fintech to transform the industry in the UAE and lead to potential higher efficiency and lower margins, successfully adapting and thriving in a digitised world remains a challenge.

A range of start-ups in the UAE financial sector are now offering innovative alternatives to the traditional banks. Online payment provider PayFort, peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platform Beehive and payment transaction platform Bridg Payment Solutions have emerged along with Democrance, a mob­ile micro-insurance company Democrane and Pi Slice, all of which meet the demands of a digitised interest that are not serviced by the banks.

 In the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) – the financial free zone of the UAE – interest from local and international players in the fintech market is at an all-time high after it announced its aim to turn Abu Dhabi into a Fin Tech hub.

The ADGM will meet with potential partners across the USA, Asia and Europe to develop the financial ecosystem in Abu Dhabi to revamp global interest in the Emirates.

ADGM chairman Richard Teng spoke at the Alternative Investment Management Summit in March, stating that global investments in the UAE fintech sector quadrupled in 2014, reaching $12 billion.

“Global AUM (Assets Under Management) is expected to grow at six per cent annual CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) from $80 trillion to reach $102 trillion by the year 2020,” he said.

With the popularity of fintech increasing, even traditional banks are engaging with further possibilities in mobile banking to create sustainable business options. Emirates Islamic Bank recently ran an ‘Appathon’ app development competition for students and professionals to create the next banking app.

Emirates NBD (ENBD), a leading banking group in the region recently launched its Global Innovation Programme for fintech experts, in partnership with Berlin-based Open Bank Project.

The Group Fintech Challenge is a platform for start-ups and individual developers around the world to present their own idea on financial technology.

Emirates NBD chief operating officer Abdulla Qassem is confident that the move towards technologising banking will be a positive one for the future of a fintech-savvy UAE.

“Emirates NBD has always taken bold steps to remain the most innovative bank in the Middle East. We are committed to making banking accessible and convenient to match our customers’ lifestyles and needs,” he said.

“The bank has invested smartly in technology innovation to transform the customer experience and opening up to external innovations is part of our constant search for new technologies that will drive the future of banking.”