The Qatar Financial Center (QFC) has opened up its non-regulated professional services to include fintech services as part of strategy to strengthen the fintech ecosystem in the country.

Under the new rules and guidance, the non-regulated professional services firms have been widened to fintech services providers which include activities such as, but are not limited to; providing cyber security solutions, application programming interfaces, cloud computing, developing blockchain-based technologies and artificial intelligence.

It also includes companies which provide a platform for facilitating real-time transaction capability of internet-connected devices. By opening up to fintech services providers, the QFC recognises firms that are delivering technology to the financial sector.

Stressing that Qatar remains well positioned as a leading international fintech hub, as set out in the Qatar National Vision 2030, the QFC said this initiative is also part of the QFC’s new strategy, announced earlier this year, in which the financial centre pledged to bolster Qatar’s fintech sector.

Fintech has seen significant growth over past few years and its applications are now prevalent in various sectors and industries, such as e-commerce, trade, banking and investment management, Henk Jan Hoogendoorn, managing director of Financial Sector Office, QFC Authority (QFCA), said. Fintech includes a variety of technology that facilitates financial services, such as money transfers and robotics as well as artificial intelligence, he added.

Innovating and supporting the growth of the fintech sector has long been part of the QFC’s strategy to boost and diversify Qatar’s economy, he said, adding the QFC is implementing this strategy by increasing the scope of fintech activity non-regulated firms on the QFC platform can carry out.

"There is demand in the market from banks and insurance companies," he said.

The QFC has already opened its doors to fintech firms such as Goals 101 and QPay, and it has a healthy pipeline for welcoming even more companies that offer innovative solutions and services in the thriving fintech space.

Despite the global fintech industry’s remarkable growth, the Middle East accounts for only 1.8% of global fintech startups in the past five years, said Sadiq Hamour, director of Financial Institutions, QFCA.

"This means that there is still a lot of potential in this region to be realised, particularly in the Islamic finance fintech space," he said, quoting an Ernst & Young October 2018 report, which found that fintech complying with Islamic law could help attract 150mn new banking customers in the next three years.

"Qatar is already working hard to invest in its fintech infrastructure and create an appropriate regulatory framework for the evolving financial sector. We believe that by opening up the fintech services available from the QFC, this activity can only be enhanced,” he said.

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