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GITEX Global Dubai 2021 Round-Up: The UAE Leads Financial Services Transformation

GITEX Global is one of the biggest tech events in the world. Taking place from the 17th-21st October at Dubai World Trade Centre, GITEX brings together global industry leaders, startups and game-changers to unveil the future.

The 41st edition of the event has seen the participation of over 3,500 exhibitors from over 140 countries and brings together innovators in artificial intelligence, 5G, Cloud, cybersecurity, blockchain, fintech and more. These themes are explored across six events – Gitex Global, Ai Everything, Gitex Future Stars, the Future Blockchain Summit, Fintech Surge and Marketing Mania – which come together to showcase the technology sector.

With the world looking to the UAE, The Fintech Times has here collated some of the highlights from the event.

UAE leading in financial services transformation

Raja Al Mazrouei Executive Vice President of DIFC Fintech Hive,

According to the Executive Vice President of DIFC Fintech Hive, the MEASA region’s first and largest Fintech accelerator, the UAE has firmly established itself as ecosystem for Fintech startups and is leading an industry tech-driven revolution, 

In her welcome address on day three of the inaugural edition Fintech Surge, Raja Al Mazrouei highlighted the pioneering approach of the UAE in driving the industry forward.

“We have witnessed a revolution in the financial services sector led by the UAE,” she said. “We have also seen three digital banks that have been licensed and announced by the UAE Central Bank and we cannot wait for them to come to market and increase the competition between financial institutions that are either challenging themselves internally, shifting business models or looking at opportunities where they focus on core products and enable Fintech startups to access all their technology and innovation.”

DIFC Fintech Hive has accelerated over 120 Fintech startups through different programmes, has launched 75 proof of concepts and over 40 products used in financial institutions in the UAE since launching in 2017.

UAE is a symbol of Embracing technology

Similar praise was given to the UAE by the founder and CEO of Binance, Changpeng Zhao who said: “Things happen here very fast, it is one of the most pro-business environments in the world and things are built with real quality  – I wish I had visited here earlier.”

Changpeng added other governments should follow suit and change their outlook when it comes to digital transformation. He said: “I think there is a lack of understanding that causes fear, and this is not the right approach. We should embrace anything with the potential to disrupt. We should invest in anything that can disrupt the current order, and we should encourage that to grow because tech and innovation will happen regardless. The leaders here have that mindset, and this is very encouraging to see.

“Don’t be afraid to embrace disruption, it will help countries to grow. It is new tech, and you cannot ignore new technology. This country already understands that and is a symbol of embracing technology. This country gets it. Work with us, let us experiment together in a safe and compliant way to grow the industry.” 

Changpeng Zhao
Changpeng Zhao at GITEX Global

Fintech delivers ‘frictionless’ experience

Elsewhere, the changing face of the financial services sector was in focus. Kunal Choitram of global technology company Stripe, underscored the potential that embedded finance offers to both consumers and brands.

He said: “Integrating financial services into new environments and ecosystems will offer a frictionless consumer experience in a range of areas such as money movement, cards, lending and more. The two key drivers in this, technology and regulation, have democratised access to more and more modular financial services. What started off as Fintechs unbundling services from banks one by one, has turned into Fintechs rebundling new services into a platform or technical play.

“Embedded finance offers a very simple connectivity through API and produce sets – essentially an infrastructure that adds value to the end customer by offering new and frictionless experiences, adds value to companies by allowing them to offer financial services and diversify revenue streams, and adds value to the finance ecosystem by accelerating the digitisation of payments.”

The ‘tipping point’ of bank branches

Philip King, Global Head of Retail at ADIB (Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank), further discussed the important role the humble bank branch can still play.

He said: “In retail banking we are all hearing about the death of the branch. Our frank view is that we are at a tipping point, where the branch experience won’t disappear completely but will evolve. 70% of customers are digitally active – they interact with our digital mobile account daily or weekly. We have registered 13 million transactions per month on the app, five million financial and eight million non-financial so we have a customer base that is more digitally empowered and enabled than any generation before. 

“But going back to the branch, if you are used to acting digitally through the app, you are used to a simple, fast and convenient process. We have to redesign the branch to keep credibility and deliver on that promise of simple, fast and convenient processes – they need to deliver exactly the same proposition to the customer.”

How can Fintech thrive?

Michael Trüschler, CEO of social impact technology company FlexxPay delivered the presentation: Changing Financial Services – The Rise of the FinTech’

When it comes to the fintech industry in general FlexxPays CEO Michael Trüschler claimed in his presentation that the fintech firms that thrive in the future will be the ones that marry innovation to data security. 

As the rise of FinTech and the accelerated adoption of digital payments in the Middle East coincide with growing privacy and security concerns, the ability of FinTech firms to effortlessly combine technological innovation with robust data protection mechanisms will prove crucial to their long-term competitiveness and market appeal, the top executive of GCC’s premier employee benefits platform said at the ongoing GITEX 2021.

 Trüschler said that even as the region’s vibrant fintech sector continues its growth story and several startup FinTechs transition to the mainstream, customer privacy and data protection are becoming non-negotiable elements in the new, data-intensive financial sector.

“As concerns around data protection in the age of digitalisation keep getting louder, and as countries around the region enact stringent privacy laws, the need to address security challenges in the evolving FinTech landscape has never been more urgent,” Trüschler said. 

“Getting the data security game right is no longer a luxury but a necessity, and FinTechs that take customer privacy seriously and couple innovation with robust data protection will be the ones to find favour with tomorrow’s aware consumers.

“While creative innovation remains the principal determinant of business success for FinTechs, data security has found its own place as an all-important piece of the puzzle in sustaining that success and building upon it.”

The MENA region is key

Szymon Fiedorowicz CEO of Skey Network
Szymon Fiedorowicz CEO of Skey Network

Finally, The Fintech Times spoke to Szymon Fiedorowicz CEO of Skey Network to get their thoughts on the MENA Region. 

On being at GITEX, Fiedorowicz said: “While we have had a lot of interest with virtual events during the pandemic, nothing beats being able to talk about Skey.Network in real life. Our solution can be complex to get your head around so being able to demonstrate functionality face to face, answer questions and speak to decision-makers helps to get our message out there to the right people.

“The MENA region is a key one for us – not only as a technological hub but also as a region where there are many gated communities and secured areas. Our access control pilot has already been successful in Europe and we see a lot of potential for this solution right now as well as opportunities for other solutions as we scale.

In terms of aspects of fintech and wider digital that he has particularly noticed this year, he concluded: “DeFi projects and decentralised projects are really coming into their own. Uncertainty in global markets, thanks to macro events like coronavirus has meant that many are looking for safe harbour for finance and they see crypto and DeFi as the potential to help mitigate risk.”


  • Polly is a journalist, content creator and general opinion holder from North Wales. She has written for a number of publications, usually hovering around the topics of fintech, tech, lifestyle and body positivity.

  • Executive Economic Development Advisor (Emerging Markets) | Contributor

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