Qatar is ideally positioned to act as a commercial and operating hub for fintechs looking to tap into such key markets as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, according to a top official of the Qatar Financial Center (QFC).
This is mainly due to Doha's "solid" business ties with these countries and more, QFC Authority chief executive Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida said in an interview that appeared in the newsletter of the World Alliance of International Financial Centers.
The first six months of this year proved to be an opportune time specifically, demonstrated by fintechs' continued expansion into Qatar as well as through local institutions' continued push in developing Qatar’s fintech framework and regulatory environment, he said.
Looking at fintech in Qatar as a catalyst for growth, he said the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the necessity and possibility of applying technology by financial institutions to better interact and service clients, including remittances that eliminate the need to visit an exchange house; contactless payment solutions; the processing of insurance claims and payments remotely; and supporting lending to small and medium enterprises.
The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) is actively working on developing strategies to allow sector players to benefit easily and swiftly from many fintech initiatives and products that are currently on the horizon, al-Jaida highlighted.
The QCB also officially launched its regulatory sandbox inviting and accepting firms seeking to safely live-trial their services in the digital payment services space.
Under the strict supervision of the QCB and the guidance of an expert panel, the QCB sandbox is central to government efforts to promote innovation in digital payment services, he said.
"With Qatar’s fintech sector still in development stages, fintechs enjoy an unsaturated market bursting with opportunities for cutting-edge financial services and innovation for both institutions and consumers alike," al-Jaida said.
Qatar and the QFC offer a host of incentives – including waiving application and registration fees, offering workspaces rent-free, and other benefits – for fintechs that give the country a competitive edge over other markets, he said.
While fintech in Qatar is largely focused on online payments and remittances, which could very well improve the sector’s overall prospects, there has been substantial infrastructure and regulatory work advanced in the country to foreground fintechs’ success in the local context, he said.
The Qatar Fintech Hub, of which QFC is a partner, brings together a vibrant community of fintech entrepreneurs, industry experts, regulators and investors and will create "significant" developments and opportunities in the short and long term, he said.
The QFC is home to a host of international fintechs including Instimatch Global, the money markets Fintech network; and Fineon Exchange, a Luxembourg-based global marketplace for exporters to trade their export receivables and trade finance assets. It also houses QPay, Qatar’s largest fintech company.
The QFC has diversified portfolio of clients, who have created a vibrant business community and international network, offering key opportunities for partnerships, cross-over and collaboration, particularly in light of high demand from banks, al-Jaida said.
The QFC is continuing to license fintechs on its platform via ‘Fintech Services Providers License’, catering to those providing cyber-security solutions, application programming interfaces, cloud computing, developing block chain-based technologies and artificial intelligence as well as those companies that provide a platform for facilitating real-time transaction capability of Internet connected devices.