Saudi Arabia’s fintech sector continues to make significant progress and has hit several milestones as it aims to become a leading global fintech hub.
To learn more about the upward trajectory of fintech across the Kingdom, The Fintech Times made its way to Riyadh, the capital and financial centre of Saudi Arabia to speak to key individuals who have already positioned themselves at the heart of change.
In the past, Saudi Arabia has gained a reputation for an economic reliance on oil and has now become the world’s leading oil exporter.
But as global environmental concerns continue to grow, the Kingdom is prioritising efforts to diversify its economy; spearheaded by its national economic development strategy launched in 2016, The Saudi Vision 2030.
Find out everything about the evolution of Saudi Arabia’s fintech landscape, key fintech milestones, the Saudi Vision 2030, collaboration with the UK and our expert’s predictions for the future of fintech in the region in our inaugural fintech documentary Redefining Riyals: Saudi Arabia’s Fintech Journey.
Redefining Riyals: Saudi Arabia’s Fintech Journey
A kingdom of innovators
To give the best overview of Saudi Arabia, we hear insights from a range of leading experts in the region:
- Nauman Hassan, regional director for MENA at card issuing and processing platform Paymentology
- Mohammed Ghonaim, the co-founder of Saudi-based digital bank D360
- Moneerah AlSaber, ecosystem project manager at Fintech Saudi, the catalyst for fintech in Saudi Arabia
- Saeed Albuhairi, co-founder and CEO of payment and financial solution provider Tweeq
- Chris Innes-Hopkins, UK executive director of the private sector-led Saudi British Joint Business Council
Saudi Arabia’s evolution
Fintech Saudi was launched by the Saudi Central Bank in partnership with the Capital Market Authority. When speaking to AlSaber, she explained: “At Fintech Saudi, we have seen a huge evolution of fintech in the history of Saudi Arabia.
“Starting in 2018, we only had 10 fintech companies. Checking our last report in 2022, we have 147. The latest annual report from Fintech Saudi that is also coming – showing we have more than 180 fintech companies here operating in the market.”
“The fintechs are the torchbearers”
Hassan discusses how the financial landscape has evolved in the last five years to where it is now: “What we have seen in the last two to three years is a massive shift. If you roll back five or six years, you’d see the banks concentrating on the number of branches they have or the bulkiness of their operations.
“But now, it’s about the consumers. It’s about what people think. This is where the technology and the banks are coming together. The fintechs are the torchbearers.”
Collaboration is a also major part of Saudi Arabia’s plans with Vision 2023, with this spanning far beyond Saudi Arabian border. One country that has already been sharing its expertise and learnings is the UK.
Innes-Hopkins offers insights on how the UK is collaborating with Saudi Arabia to support the development of its fintech sector: “We can help by giving access to UK expertise and that includes professional services companies who are working in Saudi and can give advice and consultancy on the ground. We see that happening in a big way through several of our members like PwC and Deloitte who are very active on the ground.”
Looking to the future
We also delve into what the future of payments in Saudi Arabia may look like, and how the landscape could continue to change by 2030. To do so, we asked each of the experts about their predictions for the future of the space.
Albuhairi explains how new initiatives could play a significant role: “I believe, over time, money will become more efficient and there will be less cost for the merchant and the consumers to transfer their values. With initiatives like central bank digital currencies, and others, I believe that by 2030, a lot of things will happen in the payment space and it will look a lot different to what we have today.”
“the fintech industry in Saudi Arabia is progressing a lot quicker than in other parts of the world”
Ghonaim also expects the growth trend to continue: “The financial industry is very dynamic, changing, ever-evolving and progressing for the better. The Kingdom is no different. In fact, I believe that the fintech industry in Saudi Arabia is progressing a lot quicker than in other parts of the world, including developed economies in line with the Vision 2030 objectives and the Financial Sector Development Programme.”