Is fintech the quick fix for Middle East financial services headaches?

Investment and regulatory support for Middle East financial-technology companies grows, sparking change for financial services enterprises desperate to attract new customers.

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In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region and the wider Middle East, the financial services sector is beset by a basket of woes. The cost of onboarding new customers remains punitively high, encouraging many banks to desperately hold on to what they have rather than poach for new business. Automation has yet to become mainstream, leading to escalating costs in back-office processes. Factor in saturated markets, tightening regulatory constraints and younger, more demanding customers, and it is evident that the sector faces a titanic struggle in remaining relevant to customers.

Fintech (financial technology) offers a seemingly obvious answer. The applications offered by global and regional fintech vendors tick a lot of boxes on the financial services industry (FSI) wish-list: practical, scalable, affordable, bespoke.

At the same time, fintech-based startups, such as internet-based payment services, online banks, and cryptocurrency exchanges are already proving that emerging financial tech applications are viable and attractive, especially to a younger audience – and are encroaching on the turf of traditional FSI enterprises.

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