The changes happening in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) with respect to fintech and wider digital transformation have been noted. The Fintech Times sits down with Matthijs Eijpe from Backbase
Matthijs Eijpe is the Regional VP EMEA at Backbase, leading the business development team for the regions. As a sales leader at Backbase, he has been instrumental in the company’s growth to a leader in the digital banking category. Under his leadership, Backbase has successfully closed partnerships with leading full-service and digital banks globally, including Chebanca!, Citibanamex, Société Générale, HDFC, Standard Bank and Bank ABC. Matthijs has been with Backbase for ten years, having joined the company as a Sales and Business Development Manager in 2011.
Can you explain what the digital and fintech landscape across the globe currently looks like
The digital revolution is well on its way across the globe, both in developed and emerging markets. The introduction of new banking players including neobanks like Revolut or Bank ABC, Big Tech introducing banking and payment solutions, and the emergence of fintech players, continue to disrupt the banking industry. While traditional banks in most regions are catching up with the more advance digital players, their digital transition is often hampered by siloed organisation, outdated technology, lack of internal skills, no digital culture, or lock-in with vendors.
Emerging markets offer a fertile ground for the disruption of the financial services industry having already onboarded the latest banking trends such as mobile banking, digital onboarding, and fully digital banks. There are many fintech companies offering point solutions and fueling a quick pace of innovation. Banks are willing to collaborate or integrate them directly or through third-party software vendors.
How does this alter in your region?
We see similar trends in the MEA region. The ongoing pandemic put the spotlight on the need for digitisation across the globe. The Middle East is marked by many initiatives towards introducing digital and omnichannel banking with a focus on redefining the customer experience and setting new standards for user experience in financial services. While the innovation pace has been considerably faster in Retail Banking as compared to SME and Corporate Banking, there appears to be a clear trend in the region of investment being channelised into SME and Corporate Banking. Continued quick paced innovation in Africa has seen most countries riding the mobile banking wave with the market having expanded, diversified, and matured in the past few years.
How have you developed your subject matter expertise and helped to share it across in your region?
Having worked in the industry for over 10 years, I have been in contact with many leading banks, partners and other fintechs in the region which has contributed significantly to my knowledge of digital transformation. I’ve learnt that the key ingredient to success is creating a strong innovation culture – where failure is accepted, and talent is cherished.
Knowledge transfer is important to me, whether that means taking the stage at industry conferences to discuss the latest trends and its impact or speaking to local media to share what I recently learnt about the banking ecosystem.
Finally, I also try my best to share the “HOW” lessons learnt from scaling Backbase into the global company it is today, which I have found has helped many executives struggling with answering the “HOW” of digital transformation.
What are future trends and predictions you see happening in your region? (And specifically with your company?)
Digital acceleration in the region where banks are rethinking their digital transformation programs and strategies will continue into the near future and beyond. It is all about leveraging technological innovation to be more customer-driven and platform-oriented while also embracing new ways of working to be digitally fit and resilient amid the uncertainties ahead. A few trends and predictions that will mark the next few years include:
- Banking in the cloud – Banks will adopt cloud solutions in order to innovate faster and react quickly to market shifts. Regulators have a crucial role to play in facilitating cloud adoption. The recent announcement of Amazon opening multiple data centres in the UAE is a testament of this.
- Rise of fully digital banks – The need for physical banking has decreased with the ongoing pandemic which has built a much stronger case for fully digital banks.
- Customer centricity is a must – Banks will need to think in terms of customer engagement and journeys rather than selling product and services. Seamless customer experience and omnichannel digital journeys will become a must have for banks.
- Increased collaboration with fintechs – Banks will become more open to collaborating with fintechs to accelerate innovation while focusing on their core business. Banks who do not adopt a platform strategy will become obsolete.
Any advice or recommendations you would give to other future fintech companies and entrepreneurs based in the MEA region?
There are many factors to consider when it comes to achieving success in this region. I have personally found that the three snippets of advice below have been helpful:
- Ensure institutionalising a strong culture right from the get-go as it will determine the way people perceive your brand, and whether your employees can relate to it which will also determine your ability to acquire talent. The fight for talent is key!
- Develop a strong “North Star” vision that you can use as a compass, ensuring that there is sufficient agility in your business model to pivot as you scale.
- Do not get lost in perfection in terms of bringing your proposition to the market, rather ship small MVP’s that you can validate with the voice of your customers.