AFS FinTech Forum Highlights Need for Innovative Banking Solutions
Bankers, regulators and FinTech experts from around the world had a very successful meeting at the 1st AFS Middle East and Africa FinTech Forum, held in Bahrain under the patronage of the Central Bank of Bahrain and supported by Bank ABC and Bahrain Economic Development Board. The event was also sponsored by Visa, GBM and ai Corp.
This was the first ever regional FinTech forum held in Bahrain. His Excellency the Central Bank of Bahrain Governor inaugurated the Forum and delivered an insightful keynote speech highlighting the importance of FinTech and the necessity for banks to adopt innovative FinTech solutions to provide a better customer experience.
Mr. Sael Al Waary, Chairman, Arab Financial Services, and Deputy Group CEO of Bank ABC, delivered the welcome address at the FinTech F​orum. He said: “Technology is disrupting other industries and it has resulted in winners and losers. This disruption is also finding its way to financial services. FinTech has transformed the way money is managed. It affects almost every financial activity, from banking to payments to wealth management. This is not all hype.”
He illustrated a number of examples from across the world where fresh start-ups are offering fierce competition to established financial businesses. He gave the examples of Google Pay, PayPal and Facebook.
 “This digitization called FinTech is bringing changes to financial institution with focus on High-volume transaction, low-touch, data-driven, such as payment and lending… More than US$24 billion were invested in FinTech companies in 2016. There is a lot of interest in this pace by investors including banks,” said Mr. Al Waary.
“The future is already here. A UK based mobile-only bank positions itself as ‘the future of banking, available today’. FinTech startups understand this shift and are attacking bank service fees and can lead to massive transfer of revenue between banks and themselves,” He noted.
“I do remember the days when AFS started, as a travelers cheques company and we were the leaders processing millions of checks every day. Then we moved to card processing and we are currently the leaders as well and now we are transforming AFS to become a FinTech enablement company. It is our choice as banks and bankers to participate in shaping what we call at AFS a “frictionless future“… AFS is creating a platform for all banks to start a strategic conversation about how together we can see the future, design the future and become the future,” said Mr. Al Waary.
He also stressed on the urgency for banks to partner with FinTech enablers. Highlighting some case studies of companies who did not innovate, Sael mentioned that AFS is ready to partner with banks to provide FinTech solutions including digital disruptions.
Susanne Chisti, the author of FinTech Circle, spoke on the success of FinTech hub in other parts of the world and was hopeful that Bahrain would soon adopt a similar model with the support of the Central Bank.
Other notable speakers from PayTM India, FSS, Visa, McKensey, IBM and ai Corp also spoke about the technological innovations that are happening at a rapid pace across many of the world’s largest markets; and explained how the region could learn and implement some of these solutions.
There were panel discussions around the cashless economies and FinTech start-ups, setting the scene for FinTech investments in the region.
B Chandrasekhar, CEO of AFS, commented that AFS was proud to organize this Forum which has resulted in a lot of ideas for the banks in the region to partner with FinTech firms and AFS is well positioned as a FinTech enabler to help the banks bridge the gap in a quick time. AFS has already launched the first frictionless payments solution in Bahrain and has plans to roll this out across other markets. AFS would also be making strategic investments and forging partnerships with FinTech firms.