ABDULLAH BIN FAISAL AL OTHMAN

Saudi Arabia 2021 | TELECOMS & IT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdullah bin Faisal Al Othman, Founder & President of Geidea, about visions and goals for the company, being licensed by SAMA, and Vision 2030.

What visions and goals did you have in mind when you established Geidea?

When we began operating as a payments company in 2012, we aimed to enable banks with the technology to provide merchants with the best service for payment acceptance channels. Over time and with advancements in technology, our main goals shifted towards reducing the cash society, and providing the best service and lifestyles for the economy, in line with Vision 2030. We want to equip merchants with the best products for consumers with regards to payments and always employ the latest global technology. We provide SMEs with the suitable acceptance payment tool and value-added services (VAS), such as lending, tools for inventory, and loyalty-based reward systems. Our main goal is to provide SMEs with the best acceptance channels & VAS to facilitate and grow their businesses. We are proud to be one of the only fully privately owned companies that has been officially licensed by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA).

How will the granting of this license impact Geidea's international ambitions?

Our main objective right now is to participate in Vision 2030. Previously, we were enabling our partners, or banks, to work with our technology, but now we can offer it directly to the market. In 2019 we began work in the UAE, with plans to expand into Egypt in 2020, and further expansion into Southeast Asia and Africa in 2021. Our main objective is to standardise our products and services to make it easier, faster and more affordable for clients in the region to adopt new technologies . Geidea has two main arms: Geidea Banking Business (GBB) and Geidea Merchant Business (GMB). As GMB is new, one of the main reasons in securing the license was to provide SMEs directly with our products. With GBB, we provide banks with multi-solution tools that can be delivered to SMEs and created huge infrastructure through GMB. We are drawing in talent, creating this ecosystem, and integrating huge infrastructure within the existing infrastructure in Saudi Arabia in terms of payments and the Central Bank.

How do you develop a workforce of next-generation leaders when it comes to innovation?

Although fintech has not fully matured in the GCC and the Middle East, Geidea is privileged to have been the only fintech to be granted a license from SAMA due to the innovations delivered from the latest technology from across the world. Our commitment to innovation has attracted some of the best and experienced talent within this space, both locally and internationally. We are also organizing succession planning to enable local Saudis to take up lead roles in the company, supported by the transfer of knowledge from the top leaders to those progressing to the next level.

What is the role of fintech in transforming a society?

Fintech exists on a global scale to close gaps or solve a problem that has not yet been solved. It is for this reason that each region has special fintech products tailored to their related markets. In Saudi Arabia, we studied the issue closely and used our expertise to identify exactly what are the specific needs and wants of both merchants and consumers. We designed our product using this perspective as a starting point and delivered the best front-end product to cover the gap in the market. The Saudi Vision 2030 focuses on economically supporting SMEs and creating an ecosystem for them. At Geidea, we want to enable SMEs to grow into larger merchants that can play greater roles in the private sector. For this reason, we have invested heavily in products and services that encourage SMEs involvement. Cash still accounts for approximately 78% of transactions in Saudi Arabia, so the opportunity for growth in digital banking amongst SMEs is huge. Our main strategy understands and meets the SME community objectives to help grow their businesses. We do this by creating tailored solutions for their segment, offering a complete value chain, which is combined with the simple and human experience. The agility provided by our services and products enables SMEs to focus their energy on growing their core business.

What channels do you use to get SMEs interested in your services and products?

In line with Geidea's ambition to support the growth of SMEs within the private sector, Geidea has implemented a digital marketing and content strategy to drive engagement and acquisition within the SME community. To support the digital nature of Geidea's products and services, Geidea has focused on enhancing the digital experience of its customers and potential new customers. This includes digital onboarding and digital marketing through social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, and website content. In order to drive merchant interest in our technology, the Geidea team attends merchant events where we network with the SME community to further understand their needs and to show them how our products and services can support their business growth. Geidea also produces thought leadership pieces that are distributed in the most technologically up-to-date print and online publications with a strong regional SME readership.

How are innovation and market maturity aligned in Saudi Arabia's fintech industry?

With Vision 2030, there are huge changes happening quickly, and ensuring integration with the Central Bank is extremely important. Innovation is not the difficult part if the regulation is not yet ready. You could have the most innovative product on the market, but unless the regulation is aligned, you won't get very far. We are always ahead in terms of providing technology, and our goal is to enable merchants to grow and provide them with the best lifestyle from a consumer perspective.

What do you expect for the sector within the next three to five years, and how do you position Geidea in this space?

I predict the future of merchant banking will transform within the next few years as Saudi Arabia increasingly moves towards a cashless society in line with Saudi Vision 2030. I also expect to see huge changes in the behaviour of banks and their product offers as they continue to recognise the benefits of digital banking- I predict that cash use will fall by 30-40% in the years to come. Geidea's products and services are poised to serve its clients by supporting their transition towards ecommerce and digital banking, ensuring their businesses come out on top in the coming years. Within this environment, I see Geidea becoming the number one fintech player for merchant services in the MENA region by 2022 as we actively contribute to the growth of SMEs within the Saudi economy and the broader market.