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Article  Source – Blockchain Reporter 
  • Digital currency is backed by the UAE central banks and will facilitate easier cross-border payments 
  • It will not replace fiat currency but will be a tool for inter-bank payments 
  • Motivation for the project is the recent developments in the fintech industry

A digital currency for the United Arab Emirates backed by the Saudi Arabia central Bank has entered the design stage. The joint project is being pursued to facilitate easier cross-border payments with several banks.

Middle East to Go Digital

The Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA) Head of innovation Mohsen Al Zahrani told the Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday, November 20, 2018, the project is nearing completion and could be ready by the middle of 2019.
Al Zahrani, who was speaking on the sidelines of the Blockchain Future Applications Conference on Tuesday, said SAMA was studying the feasibility of the cryptocurrency being rolled out among all banks.  
The announcement by Al Zahrani corroborates a similar one by Mubarak Al-Mansouri, governor of UAE’s Central Bank who confirmed to the local Agraam news outlet on Monday, November 19, 2018, the joint digital currency project had entered design phase. The date of the launch, according to him, will be determined “according to the Saudi part and the current study.”  He further said the digital currency would be used in all payments and added:

“The digital currency will not replace a certain bill, but it will be a new payment tool used by banks not individuals.”

The UAE Central Bank undertook a joint project with Saudi Arabia Monetary Authority (SAMA) in December 2018 to use the power of blockchain technology to create a digital currency that would help facilitate cross-border payments between both countries. Commenting about the project on December 13, 2017, during a high-level meeting for the Arab region on Global Banking Standards and regulatory and Supervisory Priorities, UAE’s Central Bank Governor said:

“CBUAE and SAMA intend to execute a joint crypto-currency and Distributed Ledger Proof-of-Concept (PoC). The PoC’s design mainly focuses on the transfer of ownership of a central bank asset (crypto-currency) among participants.”

Before the announcement, the UAE Central Bank did not recognize digital currencies like Bitcoin because of their speculative nature and the risks associated with cryptocurrency investment while Saudi Arabia Authority has warned citizens against trading in Bitcoin since it was not within the bank’s regulatory reach.
According to Al Mansouri, the motivation for the project was the recent developments in the Fintech industry, which he said presented both challenges and opportunities for the industry and that it was the responsibility of participants and regulators to understand the attendant risks and look for ways to monitor and mitigate them.

UAE at the Forefront of Crypto Developments

UAE has made the news in the recent past by creating several crypto-related payment platforms besides creating a special legal framework for the blockchain technology. The country also announced earlier this month it was getting its first cryptocurrency exchange.

Article  Source – Arabian Business 

Noor Sweid, general partner at Global Ventures, says that Dubai has a number of advantages over other global and regional innovation hubs

The UAE’s – particularly Dubai’s – access and understanding of nearby emerging markets makes it a “natural hub” for technology and innovation with a number of potential advantages over more established hubs in the west, according to Noor Sweid, general partner at Dubai-based Global Ventures.
Speaking to ITP Chairman Andrew Neil at the Arabian Business Forum in Dubai on Monday, Sweid – who was formerly chief investment officer at the Dubai Future Foundation and was founder of Leap Ventures, a Dubai-based growth-stage VC firm – said that she believes the same traits that made Dubai competitive on a global level in the real estate and tourism sectors make it an attractive hub for innovation.
“[That is] its geolocation and its ability to attract talent. Within a six hour flight you have about three billion people, and that talent comes here to create things,” she said. “Right now what they are creating is technology.”
Although in some ways, Dubai may still lag behind markets such as Silicon Valley or Singapore, Sweid said that the emirate is unique in that “we have access and understanding of emerging markets.”
“I don’t think anyone in Silicon Valley is scratching their heads thinking about how to solve emerging market problems,” she said. “We’re seeing an increasing amount of emerging market solutions to emerging market problems. We all know that the next wave of growth, the next billion, is coming from emerging markets.”
Sweid noted, however, that Dubai’s status as an innovation hub faces stiff competition from other locations including Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The most successful hub, she added, will likely be the one that is able to attract the necessary talent.
“In some areas there is a skills shortage. Some of our entrepreneurs have said it’s hard to fight the right people at the right price,” she said. “I also think there is more of a training shortage than a skills shortage. I think a lot of people have high skills and high potential and it’s about getting them into a place where they can actually grow that. There’s a lack of job mentorship.”
At the moment though, Sweid said that the UAE remains ahead of its regional peers in terms of being a potential relocation destination for talented employees.
“If you ask anyone if they’d rather live in Dubai or most places in the region, the consensus comes to Dubai,” she added. “The one who will win is the one that can attract talent. It’s a people game. It’s a talent game.”

Article  Source – The Financial Brand 

One of the major adjustments required to assure success in banking’s next chapter is the change needed within yourself. With the world changing faster than ever, are you changing with it … or will you be left behind? Four steps will help you chart your course.
Banking careers are being disrupted every day due to the confluence of technology and competition. The traditional career path of being hired and automatically moving up through an organization due to mutual loyalty between a company and the workforce no longer exists.
Instead of waiting for internal and external opportunities to present themselves, mindful executives are now recreating themselves for an ecosystem that rewards creativity and a forward-looking mindset. Winners in the future will realize that a career in banking is not static, but a work in progress that requires the ability to embrace change, accept risks and disrupt yourself. Your life and career must be in a permanent beta.

1. Determine Your Competitive Advantage

If your current job was eliminated today, would you be prepared to compete for the opportunities that present themselves? Would you be able to take your inherent skill sets and apply them in a new way that would benefit your next career stop and make you happy?
When I meet bankers worldwide, I see many who are always looking for the next best opportunity. It is not that they are dissatisfied with what they are doing today. It is that they realize that they want to be ahead of the marketplace and be in a position to embrace some of the exciting changes on the horizon. They are always learning and expanding their skills for the next opportunity as opposed to accepting status quo.
Alternatively, I also meet many bankers who have been in the same organization for the majority of their career. They have taken the road most traveled and have been successful through hard work, a great attitude and loyalty. While not dissatisfied with their job, they worry about whether their job is safe. Yet, they are also frightened of initiating change and not accustomed to taking risks … especially in their career. They have never initiated the learning of new skills or networked with new people.
The first step in building a competitive advantage is to understand the changes in the marketplace and to invest in yourself. You need to be aware of what the jobs of the future will be and what will be required to do them. You also need to determine what assets you have (money, skills, connections and experiences) that can be used to find your next opportunity. Set goals, establish benchmarks and find supporters of your dreams.

2. Have a Plan That Allows For Failure

As with any meaningful goal, it is important to consistently work toward your ultimate objective, being flexible enough to adjust to unexpected opportunities or setbacks. This encourages trial and error and can result in possible failures.
You can learn from a failure. Trying something new is inevitably risky and failure is always a real possibility. In reality, you court failure every day, in everything you do. There are very few certainties, and often, these certainties create barriers to growth. The adage, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” is a life reality. Failure teaches you what doesn’t work, allowing you to explore new, potentially more exciting opportunities.
As in the game of roulette, it is best to place a number of small bets as you work towards your career and life goals as opposed to betting everything you have on an all or nothing option. This allows you to pivot and adjust your ambitions along the way. Remember, career growth is almost never life and death.

3. Actively Use Your Network

Over the past several months of going to financial services conferences and events, I realized how vast my network of friends has become. These friends not only work in traditional financial institutions, but are owners of small start-ups, executives of large solution providers, leaders in different industries, investors and venture capitalists, and even young bankers just getting started in the industry.
I became aware that if I wanted to change my career path, there was someone I knew who was already in a role similar to the one I may aspire to. And there is no place more accommodating to engaging with a broad network than industry events.
I began to wonder how many attendees at major conferences only use these events to reinforce what is already believed, as opposed to using them as a springboard for new opportunities and a shift outside of an existing comfort zone? Beyond conferences, I also wonder how many people use LinkedIn on a regular basis to communicate with people who are in roles that may have promise in the future.
When expanding your network or working with the network you already have, keep in mind it is best to look at every interaction as a win-win scenario. Most people want to help others and this sets the foundation for asking for assistance regarding your next career opportunity. At the same time, the people you are reaching out to may want to get introductions to others in your network to expand their horizons. The conversations will be mutually beneficial.

4. Be Willing to Disrupt Yourself

To be prepared for the future of banking requires an ability to embrace the change that is upon us, a willingness to take intelligent risks and the internal commitment to disrupt yourself. The marketplace is no longer moving in incremental steps, but this means that opportunities for growth are everywhere.
Unfortunately, since most bankers have a bias against risk, we overestimate the threats related to change and underestimate the rewards that change can bring — we talk ourselves out of moving forward. Most people would look at ‘the next step’ as being permanent, irreversible and not a ‘perfect’ fit.
The reality is that uncertainty does not always equate to being risky. Especially if you have made a plan and done the learning process in a manner that minimizes negative consequences. In the end, you will never have complete certainty about the next great opportunity. But that is part of the fun … really.
You have an amazing opportunity to invest the time and effort to be prepared for the future … and disrupt yourself. Or, you can rest on your laurels, ignore the network you have created (or can create), and wait for the marketplace to disrupt you. It’s the difference between being involved in your future destiny or being a bystander as your future is defined for you.

Article  Source – Tahawultech 

Mastercard has been named as the official payments technology partner of Expo 2020 Dubai with the aim of creating personalised, seamless and cashless experience for millions of visitors from around the world.
The company was today revealed as Expo 2020’s Official Payment Technology Partner at Mastercard’s ‘Connecting Tomorrow’ Forum in Barcelona, Spain.
According to Mastercard, it will explore the use of payment technologies ranging from virtual reality to biometrics and voice shopping.
Global payments technology firm Mastercard will use technology including augmented and virtual reality, and biometrics such as facial and fingerprint recognition, as well as new payment methods including contactless and wearable technologies.
Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Dubai Expo 2020 Bureau, said, “World Expos have always offered people their first experience of technologies that will go on to change their everyday lives.
“In the future, people will grow to expect seamless experiences whenever they make a payment. Our partnership with Mastercard will not only make cashless payments easier for our visitors, but also allow them to try new and exciting innovations that enhance and become part of their Expo experience.”
With 25 million visits expected at Expo 2020 Dubai, new and innovative payment solutions will play an essential role in delivering a seamless experience. Expo’s partnership with Mastercard will ensure a fast, intuitive and reliable payment experience.
Raghu Malhotra, president, Middle East and Africa, Mastercard, saids “For more than half a century, Mastercard has been transforming everyday experiences through the power of innovation. Our expertise, strategic partnerships and global network have enabled us to empower citizens, make cities more livable and contribute to a sustainable future and inclusive communities.
“Our collaboration to reimagine the ease of payments as part of a seamless visitor experience at Expo 2020 Dubai represents the beginning of the next era of innovation, where new opportunities in technology are unlocking doors to a priceless tomorrow.”

Article  Source – Ameinfo 

While the UAE and Saudi have been making important steps introducing regulations and launching blockchain and crypto technologies, Bahrain has unleashed a series of initiatives towards full-fledged adoption.

Officially backed crypto exchange

Revealed exclusively to CoinDesk, two blockchain veterans are gearing up to launch what could be the first cryptocurrency exchange in Bahrain to be licensed by a central bank.
Rain Financial has opened its public waiting list after a year in the Central Bank of Bahrain’s fintech sandbox. Co-founded by Saudi blockchain consultant Abdullah Almoaiqel and Egyptian investor-turned-meetup organizer Yehia Badawy, along with their business partners Joseph Dallago and AJ Nelson, Rain aims to offer both a brokerage for retail crypto investors and an institutional platform along the lines of Coinbase Pro in Silicon Valley, according to Coindesk.
Rain was the first to join Bahrain’s Sandbox in September 2017 and expects to launch in early 2019, while 5 other exchanges still experiment in a closely supervised environment before licensing.
As it stands, few Persian Gulf residents officially participate in the crypto markets, partly for fear of the sector’s shadowy reputation (although Dubai has notably been a pioneer of “smart city” applications of blockchain technology).
Crypto-curious investors “are waiting for the right regulations to be in place and the right partners,” Rain co-founder Badawy said. “We are here to fill this demand, with institutional-grade infrastructure.”
Rain has attracted investments from crypto veterans such as Cumberland Mining founder Mike Komaransky, Bitcoin Core developer Jimmy Song, and BRD crypto wallet cofounder Aaron Lasher.
“Rain founders have been meeting with institutional players throughout the region, from bankers to regulators, seeking their support,” said Coindesk.
Around the Gulf region, regulations have kept the asset from growing. Kuwaiti regulators have essentially banned institutional traders from working with cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority asserted in August 2018 that “no parties or individuals are licensed” to trade Bitcoin in the kingdom.
After months of educating regulators about the know-your-customer and anti-money-laundering standards applied by Western exchanges, which it plans to follow, Rain says it has secured banking partners to allow fiat-on ramps in all the local Gulf currencies.
“It’s been a long journey educating our different regulators and partners,” Badawy said.
BusinessLine reports that back in March, Bahrain enabled a ‘regulatory sandbox’ towards emerging as a global cryptocurrency exchange hub.

Silicon angle

Amazon Web Services Inc. recently announced that it’s setting up shop in the Middle East for the first time, in Bahrain, in early 2019, with three Availability Zones.
Bahrain’s hopes to leverage technological innovations from a cloud-first position and as data becomes the new currency, Bahrain has many dreams of investing further in startups, as well as financial technology.  Khalid Al-Rumaihi chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board said.
“I emphasize this is going to be a game changer, not just for the kingdom of Bahrain, but for the entire Middle East,” Al-Rumaihi concluded. “It’s a small country; we can be nimble, agile, startup-friendly, and … innovate. And so we’re determined to carve a niche in open banking, in cryptocurrency exchanges, these being interesting innovation areas that we think we can excel at.”
According to News.bitcoin, Al Rumaihi mentioned the country has been eyeing the blockchain sector for some time and that he hopes Bahrain can “issue bonds on digital currency.”

Funds Global MENA

Private investors in Bahrain hope to launch a $100 million fund dedicated to financial technology, according to a government official quoted by the India-based Economic Times (ET).
In May a $100 million fund of funds was launched by the Development Bank of Bahrain to focus on financing start-ups in Bahrain and its neighboring states.
Bahrain’s central bank has also set up a division dedicated to regulating the fintech sector and emerging sectors such as cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence, according to ET.
Sandbox licensing galore

The recently launched Bahrain FinTech Bay is the largest fintech hub in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It is also Bahrain’s first fintech hub.
According to, the Central Bank of Bahrain Granted a Sandbox License to Malaysian-based cryptocurrency technology provider Belfrics Global, to open a cryptocurrency exchange in the nation. The approval granted by the central bank of Bahrain is expected to give Belfrics access to the $50 billion digital transaction industry of the Middle Eastern/North African nation.
The company is working closely with central banks in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia to regulate the cryptocurrency space using its innovative KYC-based blockchain, Belrium.”
According to CCN, Stellar obtained the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB) certificate, as the authority licensed by the Bahrain Central Bank allowed Stellar to establish a presence in the country once the recommendations are fulfilled.
Update: Bahrain approves VAT after $10.2 bn financial aid
What Stellar is interested in is overseas payments and asset digitization. also reported the Central Bank of Bahrain reportedly granting in June a regulatory sandbox license to the operator of Palmex, a Dubai-based cryptocurrency exchange.
The Dubai International Financial Center (CPI Financial) elaborated then:
Palmex, a professional digital asset exchange powered by Arabianchain Technology, has become the first cryptocurrency exchange in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to receive a regulatory sandbox license.
According to its website, the exchange offers “multiple trading pairs including Bitcoin and Dubaicoin DBIX, the first decentralized cryptocurrency in the region,” in addition to ETH, LTC, and XRP.

Article  Source – Forbes Middle East 

The MEA region has one of the world’s fastest growing banking sectors, driven by the adoption of mobile applications by younger, tech-hungry consumers and the need to overhaul core banking systems in response to tighter regulation and governance standards.

Open Banking, which McKinsey & Company defines as “a collaborative model in which banking data is shared through APIs between two or more unaffiliated parties to deliver enhanced capabilities to the marketplace” promises to transform the traditional financial services industry globally. But a unique set of circumstances means that the financial services sector in the MEA region is ripe for the benefits promised by Open Banking.

The high proportion of the region’s population who are still unbanked are effectively bypassing the traditional branch-based model and creating demand for innovative services based on smart technology. According to the We Are Social 2018 report, UAE and Kuwait recorded amongst the highest penetration rates for access to the internet at 99 and 98 percent respectively, while the growth of internet users in Africa is up by more than 20 percent year-on-year.

On top of that, initiatives such as Saudi Arabia’s 2030 vision – which seeks to reduce the region’s dependency on oil revenues – is opening up more opportunities for Fintechs that are developing new approaches to payments, money transfers and cash management. A report published in 2017 by the Wamda Research Lab predicted that total investment in new Fintechs would double from the $100 million recorded over the previous decade to $200 million by 2020.

Progressing from competition to collaboration

Much has been made of the competition for customers that Fintechs and Big Techs (including Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) have created in financial services. Banks in the MEA region initially shrugged off the challenge, citing long-term customer loyalty to their brands and the superior security of their infrastructures.
Open Banking has put an end to this standoff. It ushers in a new era of collaboration that can only benefit customers and businesses – and ultimately the banks themselves. The past couple of years have seen many examples of banks collaborating with Fintechs to provide the services that customers want, on the mobile platforms that they prefer to use.

The truth is that Fintechs are agile and creative and adept at building innovative new solutions. It has been more difficult for large, traditional banks to progress at the same pace because of their reliance on inflexible legacy bank systems. They can now tap into the innovative thinking presented by Fintechs and partner with selected companies in order to secure IP and build it into their own product offerings.

Collaboration brings benefits to Fintechs too, because they can access larger customer bases and reliable infrastructures. Open Banking means that banks effectively decouple customer channels from the back end. Customers no longer have to use their own bank’s user interface to transact. Account holders can now authorise any software application to do this – and decide whether to use their bank’s channels or not.

Customers can select the apps and services that they want to use at a particular time or life stage, whether that’s paying for a coffee with their phone or using Bluetooth to transfer cash to a friend. There is no longer the same requirement to bank with a single brand for life.

Innovative ecosystems

The collaboration fuelled by Open Banking has introduced the innovative ecosystem, a blended model, delivering value and providing greater choice for the customer.

In some ways, an innovative ecosystem is similar to the app stores with which we are all familiar. The standards available to programmers, wherever they operate and whether they are students, independent software vendors, entrepreneurs or Fintechs, mean they can create applications that interact seamlessly with a core platform.

It is likely that banks in the MEA region in particular will see the benefits of maintaining innovative ecosystems, because of the much higher proportion of unbanked consumers who nevertheless wish to pay and manage money via their smartphones.

As ecosystems develop, they attract wider communities of creators seeking ways to deliver value without requiring huge upfront investment. Technology advances also mean that deep programming is replaced by low code, designer toolkits with rapid deployment cycles. The focus has shifted from development to design using pre-packaged design components to invent new customer experiences.

Rise of the robots

Big software vendors like Microsoft and IBM are making services in artificial intelligence, big data analytics and computing power available in the cloud. With so much technology capability, a whole new industry is opening up for entrepreneurs to create the next generation of personalized banking services at low cost.

Robotics process automation (RPA) will increase the pace of digitization across financial services, removing friction and reducing cost in the workflow. As the volumes of data being collected across the world continue to grow and Open Banking regulations encourage greater availability of this data to third parties, many new services are waiting to be created.

Beyond retail – a technology roadmap

There cannot be a bank in the world that is now unaware of the need to digitize processes, build innovative ecosystems and collaborate with third parties to deliver the services customers want to use. But Open Banking is not just about Open APIs, nor is it constrained to retail and consumer applications.

Indeed, some of the biggest opportunities exist in the wholesale/commercial space in reducing friction and increasing throughput by eliminating systems integration bottlenecks. This makes real-time machine to-machine connectivity for straight-through processing and automated decision-making a reality.

Open banking will make it easier for banks to underpin the next generation of financial services being imagined by many people and organizations outside of banks’ four walls today. But for this to happen, there needs to be an appropriate level of investment in banking platforms that can cope with such change.

An indication of how prepared banks are for these changes can be seen in recent research undertaken by Finastra in partnership with the European Financial Management Association (EFMA). Only 26% of respondents surveyed feel ready for Open Banking and 61% plan to make significant IT changes to comply with Open Banking and PSD2.

Over half (58%) believe an ‘out of the box’, ‘bank as a platform’ approach will help them address Open Banking since only the largest tier one banks can afford to invest in their own in-house platforms.

The future of finance is open

The emergence of innovative ecosystems that bring banks and Fintechs together, alongside entrepreneurs, student developers and other third-party providers, signals a positive shift for the MEA banking industry. It is also a prime opportunity to embrace advanced AI, machine learning, voice recognition and APIs to co-create powerful new customer experiences and back-end processes. With the right banking platform in place, the future of finance is well and truly open.


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