The ever-changing banking landscape in the Middle East

The Middle Eastern financial landscape is undergoing a major transformation, with institutions managing over $3 trillion in assets. This surge not only highlights the region’s economic strength but also presents numerous opportunities for growth and development.

At the heart of this transformative journey lies the pivotal adoption of open banking and API banking. As institutions leverage open application programming interfaces (APIs) to foster collaboration, innovation, and enhanced financial services we see a slow and significant departure from traditional banking norms. The integration of open banking principles is reshaping how financial institutions operate and interact, ushering in a new era of connectivity, accessibility, and dynamic financial solutions.

This shift is poised to redefine the Middle East’s financial landscape, creating a platform for continued innovation and economic advancement. Let’s look at the how and the way forward.

FinTech sandbox, open banking, APIs and so begins the banking Renaissance

Let’s look at how the governments in the region have been enabling this digital shift.

Governments have been actively promoting this shift by implementing forward-thinking regulations designed to promote the adoption of digital technology. These regulatory initiatives serve as catalysts, propelling the banking sector into a dynamic digital age.

In the Middle East, open banking and bank APIs are reshaping the financial landscape. They are creating pathways for collaboration between third-party providers and financial institutions, bringing about significant changes in the modern financial ecosystem.

According to Fintech Times, the Middle East’s Fintech ecosystem is thriving, especially with traditional banking taking a more holistic approach. Countries like Dubai and Saudi Arabia are embracing open banking and API systems, with over 10,000 financial institutions adopting these systems. Dubai leads with 99% penetration, followed by Saudi Arabia at 96%, thanks to improved internet access enhancing the banking customer experience.

In 2018, the Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) established a regulatory sandbox to foster fintech innovation in a controlled environment. By 2019, the number of licensed fintechs doubled from seven to 14, particularly in payments. In 2020, SAMA introduced payment services provider (PSP) regulations, licensing 15 companies. To encourage open banking, regulators are taking diverse approaches, from market-driven initiatives to standardisation and compliance enforcement. For instance, Tarabut Gateway is creating a universal API platform connecting banks with third-party providers in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Bahrain. In January 2021, SAMA announced its own open banking policy set to take effect in mid-2022.

And the list goes on…!

The region’s commitment to open banking is seen as a key driver for innovation, collaboration, and the continued growth of the fintech ecosystem.

How are digital initiatives impacting traditional banks in ME

The impact of this digital wave goes beyond convenience; it represents an evolution in the financial sector that is necessary but also inevitable.

In this dynamic scenario, the door to countless possibilities has swung wide open. The combination of strong economy, technology innovation, and regulatory backing sets the stage for a financial future where the Middle East not only participates but leads the way in the global banking scene.

Here’s how the digital revolution is impacting the traditional banks in the region

Adaptation of digital services
Due to rapid adoption of digital technologies by the governments in the region, traditional banks can now start offering suitable digital services to meet the changing consumer preferences. This includes online banking platforms, mobile apps, and several other digital channels to provide convenience and efficient services.

Competition from neobanks and challenger banks
As digital technologies and exclusive digital companies become more popular, traditional banks face increased competition. Neobanks and digital banks, with their innovative solutions and faster, user-friendly services, attract customers away from traditional banks. To stay competitive, traditional banks need to enhance their offerings.

Enhanced customer experience
The adoption of technology has raised customer expectations regarding service quality and speed. Thanks to the numerous digital initiatives, traditional banks can now start offering enhanced customer experience, streamlined processes, and reduced response times to remain competitive.

Cost efficiency and streamlined operations
The initiatives taken by the governments in the Middle East enables traditional banks to streamline operations, automate routine tasks, and improve overall efficiency. This can result in cost savings and allows banks to allocate resources more strategically.

Collaborations with expert digital solutions vendors
A number of traditional banks are choosing to collaborate with expert digital solutions vendors and also FinTech companies instead of competing with them. This collaboration can lead to beneficial partnerships, allowing traditional banks to leverage expert and FinTech innovations without having to develop them in-house.

How can banks advance the digital revolution?

The technological evolution in the Middle East is prompting traditional banks to embrace digital transformation, enhance customer experiences, and find strategic ways to navigate the changing financial landscape. Banks that successfully adapt to these changes are likely to thrive in the digital age.

To enhance customer experiences and navigate the evolving financial terrain strategically, collaboration with expert digital banking solutions vendors like Clayfin becomes pivotal.

Clayfin, as a leading digital banking solutions provider, offers a tailored approach to empower traditional banks in the Middle East. Through collaborative efforts, banks can leverage Clayfin’s expertise to seamlessly integrate innovative digital solutions into their existing frameworks. This collaboration ensures a smooth transition to the digital age, where enhanced customer experiences and operational efficiencies become crucial.

Explore how Clayfin has been providing successful digital experiences to traditional banks globally for over years. Contact our experts today to learn more.

Rafeeque M Ali

Over 19 years (15 years + in ME & North Africa) of experience in Sales/Business Development & Account Management of IT solutions - BFSI Domain. A Digital Banking Sales Specialist with excellent knowledge in the areas of Retail, SME & Corporate - Omni Channel (Internet, Mobile & Wearable Banking), Digital Onboarding, API Banking, Chatbot, Lifestyle/Social Banking, PFM, Analytics, Liquidity, Cash Management, Supply Chain, eRemittance & Insurance Solutions

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