Industry players participating in the 1st Arab Fintech Forum has underscored the need for more collaboration between banks and financial technology (fintech) companies to address the evolving needs of the market.
Speaking Sunday at the forum’s session titled ‘Shaping the Future of Fintech in Qatar’, Andrew Dahdal, associate professor at Qatar University, noted that with the introduction of ‘big tech’ companies into the financial sector, “banks need fintechs in order to survive against the introduction of Google, Apple, WePay, and the Chinese equivalents in the markets.”
“Not being part of an ecosystem like Apple or Samsung, or Huawei, or Google gives banks an advantage where they can be more flexible and customer-centric,” Dahdal said.
“Their lack of having that kind of ecosystem is not a disadvantage for banks. It can actually be an advantage if they learn to leverage the potential of fintechs effectively,” Dahdal emphasised.
Hilal al-Kuwari, senior incubation adviser at Qatar Development Bank (QDB), also spoke about QDB’s role in the development of the country’s fintech ecosystem. He said banks in Qatar had approached QDB about fintechs, adding that QDB provides advisory on addressing several challenges, such as digital transformation, focus on cost optimisation and data analytics, and developing systems to increase revenue.
Henk Jan Hoogendoorn, chief of Financial Sector at Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority, who was moderator of the session, spoke on the future of fintech in Qatar and called for the setting up of digital SME banks. Banks need to tap the SME sector, said Hoogendoorn, who also underscored the importance of financial inclusion and the need to lessen the cost of sending remittances.
Al-Kuwari also discussed the role of the Qatar FinTech Hub (QFTH), a key QDB initiative under the leadership of the Qatar Central Bank (QCB). He said QFTH’s vision is aligned with the goals and objectives of the Qatar National FinTech Strategy.
He said QFTH is working on a number of new initiatives that would help the sector further strengthen its position. These initiatives include internships for students and young entrepreneurs in Qatar to build human capital.
Another initiative is a fintech course based on the latest trends and market needs and forging new partnerships that would open international access to markets. QFTH also facilitates the participation and representation of Qatari fintechs in global events, al-Kuwari said.