Spotlight MEA
Cybersecurity Fintech Middle East & Africa Spotlight

In Conversation With IDnow’s Basil Macklai

As cases of identity theft and fraud skyrocket worldwide, the importance of knowing exactly who your customer is has never been greater.

In this week’s Spotlight, The Fintech Times sat down for a conversation with IDnow’s Basil Macklai, who leads the company’s operations within the MENA region, to gain a more informed understanding of how the needs of KYC are being met in the Middle East.

Who is IDnow?

IDnow is an identity verification platform that offers a portfolio of identity verification solutions, ranging from automated to human-assisted and from purely online to point-of-sale; with each of them being optimised for user conversion rates and security.

Aside from their offices in the UAE, the company also operates from Germany, the United Kingdom, and France, and is backed by institutional investors, including Corsair Capital and Seventure Partners.

Its portfolio of over 800 international clients, spans a wide range of industries, including Western Union, UBS, Commerzbank, Sixt, and Munich Re, as well as digital champions like N26, Solarisbank, wefox and Tier mobility.

Who is Basil Macklai?

Basil Macklai, Head of MENA, IDnow
Basil Macklai, Head of MENA, IDnow

Basil Macklai serves as the Head of Middle East for IDnow, overseeing the Business Development, Sales, and Account Management functions in the region. With over 8 years of experience in identity and biometrics, Basil began his career with Ernst & Young in Advisory Services in Dubai as a consultant, before transitioning to the UAE in 2013 to work with the Identity and Citizenship Authority (ICA) as part of their Project Management Office. 

There Basil was assigned to roll out and manage the Validation Gateway – the online service to authenticate a customer using their national ID card. After 5 years at the ICA, Basil joined an Australian biometric and data capturing hardware manufacturer as their General Manager of Sales and Account Management for the Middle East. Basil was instrumental in the deployment of nearly 10,000 units into the telecommunications sector in the UAE for customer registration for SIM card issuance.

How is identity verification relevant in today’s climate?

Identity verification is becoming more and more relevant as cybercrime rises. Every year billions of dollars are lost due to identity theft and fraud. This has been exacerbated by the increase in online activity due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So it is imperative, especially in these times, for businesses to know who is using their service.

Companies must take on the challenge of not only providing modern security standards for their users but also offer a streamlined onboarding process. For a broad modern target group, seamless integration and intuitive user experience is at the forefront of everything we do. The massive shift towards digitisation over the last year has placed huge pressure on operators to implement technology at pace in order to deliver a digitally-savvy and remote experience. This means that operators have to quickly pivot and adapt in order to survive and retain customers.

What are have been the challenges associated with starting operations in the Middle East?

In the first step, we put a lot of effort into understanding the regulatory requirements and the rules. In our environment this is crucial. Also, the market works quite differently than in Germany or France and for us, the first priority is to offer a 100% fit for a market solution that fulfills the needs of the local customer.

The next challenge was to decide where to set up in order to best promote IDV technology and create brand awareness. The main hubs – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh all have their benefits.

And finally, we needed to find the right talent that has Middle East and IDV experience to support our goals.

How does the Middle Eastern landscape differ from your home market?

The market is much smaller than the European landscape and digital identity verification is not so established and present for companies – despite that users already see it as a “must-have”.

Also, the regulatory landscape is very different as regulations are rather new.

Do you have any predictions as to what the market will look like in the future, in respect to the Middle East and your home country?

In the next few years, ID verification will be ubiquitous and will be prevalent across all industries such as Financial Services, Telecommunications, Transportation, Hospitality, Insurance, and Education. Based on market information we expect that by 2025 the UAE will be a $55 million market with the MENA region being close to $800 million. And with this increase in demand for ID verification services, more solution providers, like IDnow, will start to enter the market. Aside from price, speed of verification, complimentary services like AML screening and timely technical support will serve as a differentiator between the service providers.

What are your future plans for your Middle Eastern operations?

Over the next few years, we will focus on growing the team. We are also constantly working on adapting and enhancing our solutions to fit the needs of the local market.

Do you have any advice you would give to future tech companies looking to expand to the Middle East?

Understand the market not only from a technology requirement standpoint but also the people and culture.

Are there any trends in the fintech industry that you’re noticing, both globally and in the Middle East. Are you planning to answer any of these trends?

The growing need for eKYC and enhanced customer due diligence. We believe this is a stepping stone to e-wallets where customers will be able to store their digital identity and retain control over who they share their personal information with.


  • Tyler is a fintech journalist with specific interests in online banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

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