EXCHANGES

Dubai 2018 | FINANCE | B2B

Moving forward, innovation and developments in technology will be crucial for exchanges that seek to give their customers greater security and convenience.

Osama Al Rahma
OSAMA AL RAHMA
General Manager
Al Fardan Exchange
Sultan Al Mahmoud
SULTAN AL MAHMOUD
Deputy CEO
Wall Street Exchange Centre LLC

What can you tell us about Al Fardan's most recent successes?

OSAMA AL RAHMA Financial services have been disrupted by fintech and new technology. Innovations in blockchain and payment evolutions encourage us to not only adopt them, but also to assess the right technology in terms of alignment with the entire ecosystem created by the government. The government has its own vision to go smart and improve the lives of residents in Dubai. This includes making the payment system more seamless, and we are part of those initiatives and ecosystems. We have ongoing internal workshops to develop new products that will improve the lives of clients and the people who use our services.

How would you characterize the competition in the sector?

SULTAN AL MAHMOUD The UAE market is a competitive market of close to 140 licensed exchanged companies and a total of 1,000 branches. The new standard for the regulations was released recently by the Central Bank, and the high expectations the regulator is putting on licensed exchange companies in terms of governance and compliance reflects the country's commitment to protect the integrity of the financial industry. Due to the regulation put in place, some consolidation will occur. The new standards are closer to high-level international banking standards, which will eventually increase overhead costs and require the companies to be selective.

What innovations in fintech do you see in the forex segment?

OAR People want to be able to use apps and online services; such as remittance; however, at the same time, protection and security is equally important for the customer. The security and credentials should be top notch, and it should be safe for customers to access such services. We work with advanced companies here and abroad to develop such products. We need to digitize the processes within the company as well. It is not a matter of the customer interface, but also how we process their transactions internally. This is why we focus on blockchain and robotics as well, as part of our vision. Customers in Dubai have high standards, and as a customer-oriented company, it is our job to cater to those demands. We have already signed MoUs in the fintech sector with start-ups that have come up with differentiated solutions that will add a great deal of value to our customers.

SAM We are evaluating developments in AI and how it can be used to enhance proper internal controls, compliance, and governance. It is a new topic that is captivating the entire world. Our R&D department works hard to keep the company up to date with the new technology. AI has historically been connected to manufacturing and industry; now we see it in finance, and it will benefit the industry significantly. We are exploring how we can use blockchain and tie that into money exchange business. We have not truly seen any cases where people rely on AI in finance yet, though we are hopeful that with the fast pace technology is taking we shall see something soon.

What are your expansion plans?

OAR We have a clear strategy to expand on the digital end as well as in terms of physical expansion, where we have already been granted another 10 branches in the UAE in 2018. We aim to have 100 branches in three years. We have our own certified company in the UK and plan to use that for digital payment. We received a small payment institution (SPI) certificate from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) that will help us get a passport into Europe. We have established licensed offices in India and in Bangladesh as well. Today, the digital model issue has changed. We have a partnership in most of the countries with banks and correspondent banking and financial institutions. Our aim is to focus on the virtual side when it comes to going abroad.

What are the new standards and how will they affect the country?

SAM The new standards involve and are specially designed to make sure that there is proper governance in place to improve internal controls and enhance anti-money laundering measures in line with international standards and industry best practices. Overall, this will lead to more confidence in the sector and exchange firms. There are also rating agencies and the regulator in the mix. The government has invested and placed a great deal of efforts on anti-money laundering. There will also be greater investment in the IT sector and technology security in general.