WINDS OF CHANGE

Saudi Arabia 2020 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Focusing mainly on SMEs and digital wallets, DCI sells digital solutions in Saudi Arabia in partnership with banks and businesses of the future.

Bashar Khalil Baidas
BIOGRAPHY
Bashar Khalil Baidas is CEO & Co-Founder of DCI and was responsible for the partnerships that launched DCI in Saudi Arabia. He has well over two decades of experience in global IT companies, including IBM and Logica, and was the founder of other companies in the field of financial technology. He is the master architect of Shamel end-to-end technology for digital cash, which was also used in the DCI platform. Khalil holds a bachelors in computer science. He also completed a mini-MBA at Harvard Business School.

How was DCI established, and what payment solutions have you developed?

DCI started in 2015, when we were working with the Central Bank of Jordan on various payment initiatives. At the time, DCI was attending the Digital Transformation Committee meetings after being invited by the Central Bank of Jordan. We attended workshops with the WTO, the Central Bank of Jordan, representatives of the German government, and other entities. The main focus was financial inclusion for Jordan, including helping the refugees in Jordan with a low-cost remittance solution. That is when DCI was established. Thereafter we decided to create our own platform because financial inclusion was not our type of software. We did not want to depend on someone else for the technology because then we lose our agility.

How did DCI enter the Saudi market?

DCI was formed to be the vehicle to sell digital solutions in Saudi Arabia. DCI started its activities in the Saudi market in partnership with the Alsubeaei family, the major shareholders of Albilad Bank, amongst many other businesses and banks outside the Kingdom. As bankers, they knew the challenges facing the banking industry and were convinced that digital money was the future. Thus, the partnership made sense, and we transferred our technology to Saudi Arabia and nationalized it. It was truly the biggest catalyst of our success. We received two licenses from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) with the cooperation of our partner, the Arab National Bank.

What is your experience and perspective on SAMA's more open and evolving approach to licensing of financial players here?

SAMA is evolving, though it is strict in the anti-money laundering (AML) and know your customer (KYC) areas, and we understand why. SAMA has a tough mission because it wants to promote agility and digitization, but at the same time does not want to compromise on the AML and KYC rules. Digital solutions are vulnerable to hacking, and SAMA wants to make sure those solutions provided to the market are low risk to protect consumers and the market. If we look at all these elements and considerations, we can see SAMA is doing a great job. It is truly pushing for a digital market.

How does DCI plan to grow its business in the coming years?

DCI is currently introducing a specialized marketplace just for e-commerce promotions for its regular clients. We are signing with major merchants and retailers, who will use our digital promotion tools, and will report back to them on the demography of their users and where they saw their advertising. Ours is a completely cashless system from end to end. If we had not addressed all the different stakeholders in the cash system, we would not have succeeded. This is why through its platform DCI is addressing merchants, retailers, SAMA, banks, and consumers. We want to show the market that one can build many offerings on our platform, for example, a specialized marketplace, digital promotions, or connections with Uber or other third parties. Retailers have to react to e-commerce, as do banks. Banks will not disappear, though they must address the fintech rush.