COMPREHENSIVE FLEXIBILITY

Lebanon 2019 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Bluering's strategic partnership with Standard & Poor's has helped cement its reputation as a leading software solutions provider in the region.

Fares Kobeissi
BIOGRAPHY
Fares Kobeissi is the Chairman & CEO of Bluering, a leading Levantine fintech firm specialized in digital lending and credit risk management, and the regional partner of Standard & Poor’s. He is also the founder and president of the Association of Lebanese Software Industry (ALSI) and a board member of the LAU Computer Science Advisory Council. He was directly involved in many private/public sector initiatives related to ICT in Lebanon, such as drafting the National E-Strategy, the law for recruitment of IT employees in the government, and the e-transaction law, and reviewing public procurement policies and procedures and WTO agreements, among others.

What services do you provide?

Bluering is a fintech company specialized in digital lending and credit risk solutions. We help banks offer modern lending services to the marketplace, thus enabling their process of digital transformation. We also help banks comply with regulations and meet credit risk requirements like Basel III and IFRS 9 (International Financial Reporting Standards). We offer products for banks that cover the whole range, from corporate and SME credit to retail lending.

What are the biggest strengths of the product you offer?

Our biggest strengths are the comprehensiveness and flexibility of the solution we offer. We are able to implement a comprehensive solution that applies to the full range of services covered by any commercial bank, including risk rating, credit scoring, workflow automation, and the definition of credit policy. Our product is also extremely flexible because it can operate in completely different organization structures and credit policies, thus accommodating different banks in different markets. We have the full intellectual property on any code we developed. We are also at the forefront of innovation and technological developments.

Do you plan to solidify your presence abroad?

We are market leaders in the Levant and looking to expand into neighboring regional markets such as the GCC, North Africa, and Nigeria. Our long-term vision is to become a major global player in the credit risk arena. First, we intend to strengthen our positioning in markets that are similar to the Lebanese one to leverage the necessary resources to later access developed markets. Moreover, since 2014 we have partnered with Standard & Poor's (S&P) to become the software platform of its risk rating models they offer to banks globally. This partnership, coming from a global market leader in credit risk, is an important endorsement for us and has cemented our reputation in the region.

How would you rate the process of digital transformation among banks, globally and in Lebanon?

Digitalization is a global phenomenon. Banks across the globe have been facing the challenge brought by fintech, incorporating elements of digital transformation into their model. At the moment, however, automation and digital transformation are more relevant to retail than corporate credit. While corporate credit accounts for three-quarters of the total lending portfolio, this involves a smaller number of customers. Retail credit, on the other hand, comprises an ever-growing number of customers and transactions that need to be automated to cut costs. With regard to Lebanon, banks are generally neither aggressive nor receptive in terms of digital transformation. Given the difficult conditions of the market, investing in digitalization should have represented an important asset for Lebanese banks. Sadly, however, digitization is not moving at the pace it should, which is related to the overprotective regulatory environment. This reduces pressure on local banks to increase their investments. All of this is reflected in the volume of our Lebanese operations, which does not exceed 20% of our total revenues.

What is your opinion of the effect of Circular 331 on the knowledge economy?

We started the company from scratch in 2007, long before the support channeled through Circular 331 came from the Central Bank. This was all the more challenging since we were selling our services to banks, which had the resources to purchase from any large international supplier. Nevertheless, we gradually succeeded in growing the company and creating a name for ourselves in the region. The start-up ecosystem considerably changed after 2014, when Circular 331 was issued, whose biggest accomplishment was to establish equity participation for banks in start-ups.