Blockchain, advances in banking technology and cross-border remittances were some of the hot topics of discussion at the Banking, Innovation and Technology (BIT) event organized by Khaleej Times on Wednesday.
Speaking about digitalisation of banking services, Ravi Tharoor, CEO of Khaleej Times, said that banks must find a way to meet the increasing consumer expectation. “Digitalisation has led to a need for seamless real time transactions, and banks must keep up,” he said. “It enhances efficiency, accessibility and security, enabling financial interactions and meeting the evolving needs of a connected world.”
The two-day event brought together industry experts to address the most pressing needs of the banking industry while also exploring the latest technology available to cater to customer needs.
Advances in the banking industry is of great importance in this region, where 60 per cent of the population is under the age of 30 and are highly tech-savvy. In the UAE, more than 50 per cent of residents already utilise digital wallets. Addressing the event, Indian ambassador to the UAE, Sunjay Sudhir said that the digital transformation is changing everything in the world and gave the example of how India has been riding the technology wave. “Our investment in digital innovations and fintech actually helped us in so many ways,” he said. “India is among the fastest-growing fintech markets in the world. Today, India accounts for the third largest fintech ecosystem globally. The banking revolution that India is experiencing has promoted financial inclusion.”
Sudhir gave the example of India’s Unified Payment Interface, the UPI, as a fintech innovation that revolutionised the digital payment system. “Digital payments, especially UPI, proved to be a boon during Covid times when people may fear touching currency,” he said. “Payments are omnipresent, from vegetable stalls in the streets to five-star hotels, UPI is accepted everywhere. In the month of October, UPI transactions numbered over 11.4 billion and transaction amounts crossed $210 billion.”
Sudhir also gave more details about the Rupay card — India’s own card payment network. The card, which has debit, credit and prepaid options is one of the most popular cards in India. Last month, it was announced that the card would be launched in the UAE. “It is going to help the Indian diaspora here to make seamless payments to their families back home,” he said. “It’s also going to cut down on transaction costs, enhancing their ease of living.”
He also talked about an MoU signed by India and the UAE in July. “It links our payment systems and our messaging systems, and we will soon have UPI link here,” he said. “We also signed the local currency trade settlement mechanism, under which our exporters and importers can actually make payments in dirhams as well as the Indian rupee — therefore de-risking our payment systems.”
Building a fintech
During the day, several experts spoke about various topics including how to build a fintech company. Entrepreneur Lloyed Lobo, co-founder and president of fintech platform Boast.AI, shared five unconventional lessons he had learnt while building his $200m dollar company.
He spoke about the importance of taking risks and explained how he sold half his company during the Covid-19 pandemic. He also shared how he built a community of like-minded people around him. “I was a refugee during the Gulf War,” he said. “I was sitting in a rickety bus on the highway of Jordan where buses were bombed. We weren’t sure whether we would live or die but there was one thing that was constant, people were laughing and singing and playing the guitar. And that is when I realised you could be on the crappiest journey, but good companions make it memorable.”
He also spoke about taking care of customers and employees to build a good company and the importance of building a circle of influence.