Seamless sign day two Saudi Arabia
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Seamless Saudi Arabia – Day Two Roundup

Seamless Saudi Arabia opened the doors for the second edition of its annual event, setting the stage for a second day filled with insightful discussions and industry exploration.

Hundreds of exhibitors and speakers set up for a second day at the Riyadh Front to conclude Seamless Saudi Arabia 2023. Visitors could return to learn everything spanning from payments, fintech and retail to home delivery and digital marketing within Saudi Arabia.

On day two, much of the discussion revolved around what the future of finance may look like in the future; with speakers debating which payment methods will attract mass adoption; the future of Web3 and CBDCs.

Web3: The future of innovation and development?

Phillip Smith, group director for digital and e-commerce for Alyara Fashion, explained his enthusiasm for the future of the internet, thanks to the potential of Web3: “What’s great about Web3 is that it is essentially an evolution of the internet. Blockchain, smart contracts and NFTs enable us to prove who owns a certain piece of digital content.

Lina Gallagher sat down with Phillip Smith on stage at Seamless
Lina Gallagher sat down with Phillip Smith on stage at Seamless

“We’ve come a long way from Web1 which was just reading stuff and Web2 where you could read and write as a content creator. Web3 is all about ownership – we can now prove who owns a certain piece of digital media or physical assets. That’s why it’s so revolutionary.”

However, Smith warned that Web3 won’t see mass adoption for a while and that those working in the space are “unlikely” to see a good return on investment in the near future. He explained: “I think the biggest catalyst for these solutions to go mainstream is related to countries working on central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Until people want CBDCs in their lives, nothing is going to explode in terms of NFTs and applications for Web3.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion in Saudi Arabia

As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gears up to drastically grow its economy, it is also clear that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) must be taken seriously in all areas for the country to thrive.

Seamless Saudi Arabia 2023 DEI
Tim Carmichael moderated a talk with Abdullah Alfahhad and Bally Binji

Abdullah Alfahhad, chief corporate support officer at AlAkaria, explained the benefits DEI could bring from a business perspective: “There’s a number of studies that show a clear positive correlation between having a strong DEI practice and increases in profitability, customer satisfaction and engagement.

“In my own company, I noticed that after implementing several DEI-related initiatives, employee engagement increased by over 50 per cent. Everyone felt that they were being represented, that they belonged and that they mattered.

“When people feel that way, they tend to perform better. However, if there is one area that isn’t up to scratch, the entire system collapses.”

Bally Binji, managing director at Persistence Recruitment, said: “A recent Deloitte study looked at females representation across the MENA region at board level – finding it lower than the global average of 20 per cent – at just 9.7 per cent.

“There’s a long way that the MENA region, here in the Kingdom, the UAE, and GCC counties as a whole, need to go to ensure we have more of a gender equality as well as a DEI as a whole.”

Elsewhere, Maha Alfaleh, SVP of human capital at Saudi Payments, discussed the importance of gender equality for the payments company: “47 per cent of the staff at Saudi Payments are women.

“If we create a diverse culture it will become a very attractive place for women to want to join you. We have a healthy culture where everyone can thrive, regardless of gender.”

Saudi successes 

Gregory Johnson, founder of Rubicon Digital Assets, took to the stage to explain his take on how successful Saudi Arabia has been so far in implementing Vision 2030: “Visiting Seamless, it feels like, in many ways, 2030 is already here in Saudi Arabia.

“I believe, here, in the GCC and here in Saudi, could become the place that defines how new mediums of exchange end up being transacted. I also want to say that the digital industry is forcing people to think differently about how they look at value and creativity”.

“I’m familiar with a project called Islamic Coin that is doing very creative things to add value for people who are faithful, who want to contribute toward an ecosystem that is consistent with their values; but is also modern in the way they exchange.”

CBDCs: the future of money? 
fintech stage day two seamless
Khalid Al Turki and Gregory Johnson discussed fintech on stage.

While on stage, Gregory Johnson also gave his take on whether the future of finance will include central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) or not: “Some tech companies will inevitably become household names because they will innovate the technology that powers wholesale and retail CBDC. I don’t think it’s a debate – it’s a matter of time.

“Three years ago, the number of countries actively piloting a CBDC was 35. Today, that figure is more than 135.”

Khalid Al Turki, head of financial institutions at Arab National Bank, said: “Comparing CBDCs to other decentralised currencies, maybe people want more freedom and decentralisation – which is logical to an extent, but it debatably protects you less.

“But, in essence, your digital currencies are there to help you and enable you to go and make purchases and transactions. If something is supported or backed by the central bank, as opposed to something that is decentralised, if one helps you in one way but the other helps you in another way, it’s all about what works best for you.”

Putting pen to paper at Seamless 
Nikita addressing an audience on the Seamless e-commerce university stage
Nikita on the Seamless e-commerce university stage

Nikita Prokhorov, co-founder and executive director of online reputation management agency Reputation House revealed the company’s expansion into Saudi Arabia while on stage at day two of Seamless.

The news comes following Reputation House’s establishment of offices in the USA, Hong Kong, Moldova and Dubai.

Prokhorov said: “Off the back of liberal economic and social reforms, it gives foreign firms an excellent opportunity to tap the potential of the two markets.

“In our second leg of MENA expansion, we have plans in place to set up a fully functional office in Riyadh by the middle of 2024.”

Meanwhile, Mohammed Alkhowaiter, head of business in Saudi for Tap Payments and Khaled Altuwaijri, director of products and business process automation at roadside assistance app Morni, met at the Seamless signing stage to seal the deal on a partnership between the two entities, aiming to improve the app’s payment experience.

Saudi Arabia Seamless Tap Payments partnership
Tap Payments and Morni sealed their partnership at Seamless

Away from the signing stage, payments and commerce technology firm Gidea, announced a partnership with Madfu, a company offering the option to settle invoices in multiple instalments, at its booth – looking to provide payment solutions for the entertainment, food and beverages sectors.

M2P Fintech and Alinma Bank also entered a strategic partnership at the Seamless signing stage. The entities explained that they hope the collaboration will power fintech enablement across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Author

  • Tom joined The Fintech Times in 2022 as part of the operations team; later joining the editorial team as a journalist.

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