Dubai has always been a strong advocate of technology adoption through its forward-looking strategies and state-of-the art infrastructure.

Raja Al Mazrouei

Acting Executive Vice President, FinTech Hive at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)

As the leading financial center in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region, with an existing community of more than 21,000 professionals working across 1,750 firms, DIFC is the ideal platform to help both small start-ups and large financial institutions complement each other's offerings. As part of our inaugural accelerator program at FinTech Hive at DIFC, we have selected 11 start-ups to develop and test their technologies and work side by side with leading financial institutions and accelerator's financial institution partners such as Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, RAKBANK, Standard Chartered, Visa, and well-established fintech firms. We intend to bridge the SME funding gap in the region by offering leading technology entrepreneurs and companies the opportunity to exchange knowledge and develop the necessary solutions to meet the needs of a larger client base. The program's start-ups also have access to legal clinics and our independent regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA). They were also provided with a working space that allowed them to host events, network with peers and competitors, as well as receive market feedback about their solutions. The 12-week program culminated in an 'Investor Day,' where participants were given the chance to showcase their products in front of 300 potential investors and partners from the region's financial industry.

Wael El Awaar

Managing Director, NCR

Looking at the region in general, NCR has a leading market share when it comes to ATMs. In the Middle East and Africa, we have 58% market share, and in the UAE we have 77%. The UAE has always been on the front end of innovation, whether in government projects, the financial industry, or other industries such as transport and logistics. Many of our customers within the UAE have made regular visits to NCR's executive briefing centers and taken the opportunity to contribute ideas or views with our designers. A bank in the UAE was one of the first in the region to introduce what we call Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs). This solution has been approved by the Central Bank of the UAE and many other central banks. Dubai, and the UAE in general, has adopted such technologies, in turn providing input for the new video-enablement of the platform we are introducing through the 80 Series. This has greatly influenced the uptake of the new series in the region, which has been extremely positive. Around 10 banks in the region have committed to and placed orders for the 80 Series ATM, and several of these are situated in the UAE.

Kamal Hassan

General Partner, Turn8

Turn8 is a VC firm that invests in young, early-stage start-ups. We also have an accelerator that provides more than just funding. We provide additional value by mentoring, providing guidelines, helping business development, and fundraising. We have invested in start-ups from all over the world. Our criteria for investing in a start-up are fairly clear-cut: faith in the start-up, the market, the technology, and the team. They could be based anywhere; however, once we invest in them we work with them to bring them here. Since we are early-stage investors, we find start-ups that are new and upcoming, and typically between seed and series A. We look at a start-up that still has a lot of potential to offer and help it grow. Our model is that we will stick with the start-up for five to seven years holding equity, and then we exit with profit. Transportation, logistics, and infrastructure technologies have considerable potential. The automation of roads, transportation, and movement of products and services are the backbone of trade. The front end of e-commerce is saturated; however, the back end of e-commerce is the interesting part: supplying products, automation, security, and infrastructure. If there is a way to facilitate trade, that would be a winning formula.

Mirna Sleiman

Founder & CEO, Fintech Galaxy

The thinking behind Fintech Galaxy was to create a platform to join the dots in the financial technology ecosystem and to plug the gap that had opened up in the market for open innovation. Many financial institutions in the MENA region want more innovation but do not know where to start looking for it. Fintech Galaxy was created to help them find the solutions they need in a secure, cost-efficient marketplace through the crowdsourcing of innovation from global entrepreneurs. We will also provide opportunities and resources to start-ups in the region, helping fuel the growth of this important sector. Ultimately, Fintech Galaxy aims to improve the economy of the Middle East, create new opportunities, and change the face of finance in the region. The fintech market is developing fast. Regulators are moving ahead at high speed, in particular Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), where Fintech Galaxy is registered. There are a growing number of incubators and accelerators, and funding is also growing, although this still in the early stages. Dubai would normally be the natural hub for fintech in the region because of its developed infrastructure, its vibrant start-up scene, and the presence of investors. However, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain provide some healthy competition, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

Sara Grinstead

Chief Innovation Officer, RAKBANK

We do not see banks retreating from the consumer space, though it will be crucial to see how banks respond over the next few years. If they manage to create strong analytics and data capabilities, then they can continue to build customer focused solutions. Banks are taking inspiration from the interactive services offered by challengers and building similar propositions themselves. Multinational banks are all starting to offer those services, as are the banks here in the region. Maybe they are not all there yet; there are better decision-making platforms and real-time analytics that they would benefit from implementing, but many of the fintech models are still applicable. The more innovative models have been successful. Peer-to-peer lending, for example, has created a lending solution for a segment that was simply underserved, offering a service that banks cannot or do not want to offer. At RAKBANK, we are adopting new technologies where it makes sense to do so, such as our partnership with Ripple for our RAKMoneyTransfer service to power instant remittance payments, using Ripple's blockchain platform and our deployment of both Samsung Pay and Apple Pay payment solutions. We are also adapting our core infrastructure to make it easier for us to work with fintech partners in order to provide enhanced service offerings to our customers.

Dmitry Karandin

Head of Special Projects, Smart City Lab, IT Department, Moscow City Government

Fintech in Russia is driven by our talented developers in IT, who have gained global recognition as leading industry experts. Second, the fact that Russian financial institutions and the country's banking industry can still be considered as developing is an advantage, as often this means that new frontline financial innovations are adopted in Russia faster than in Western markets. Third, as of now there is no strict regulation of blockchain and cryptocurrency; the markets are flexible enough, helping us implement new technologies easily. There are independent accelerators and in-house incubators within top banking institutions, such as those located in Russia's largest banks—Sberbank and Alfa-bank—and this helps drive corporate innovation internally. The banks collaborate with fintech start-ups, explaining their inner workings, and what they need in terms of services, resulting in many synergies. Fintech adoption rates also depend on the management of each bank. Sberbank, the largest Russian bank, which has undergone rapid transformation over the past few years, is now considered to be one of the most innovative banks in Europe and the post-USSR market. Both the Moscow city government and our top business management are open minded, keeping one finger on the pulse of innovation, new technology, and especially fintech. For policymakers and industry experts, words like “big data” and “blockchain” are not just buzzwords.