AHMED AL ENEZI

Saudi Arabia 2021 | FINANCE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ahmed Al Enezi, CEO of stc pay, about Saudi Arabia being a global leader in the payments space. Firms like stc pay, recently graduated from a SAMA sandbox, are leading the innovation charge.

stc pay graduated from SAMA's sandbox relatively recently, one of only two fintech firms to do so. What allowed you to excel in this process and move to market quickly?

As part of stc pay's vision and commitment to be the leading regional operator in the field of fin-tech, we started looking at the service's road map a few years ago. We saw many complexities in the financial sector and not enough focus on the actual customer journey map as one of the ma-jor factors in achieving this vision. We believe that we should go back to the basics, offering simplicity, security, and convenience to our customers and injecting that into our services, starting from the design phase moving into the strategy. We believe that everyone should “simply take control" of their financials, whenever, wherever they are, as we are a group of passionate professionals and tech savvy individuals who can overcome all kinds of challenges and obstacles, do not accept traditional solutions, and seek innovation and only that. We believe nothing is impossible to create the future we want, and that is key to excel, lead the industry and persevere when it gets really tough. You have to have much passion in order to succeed. The second thing is SAMA's blessings in launching the Fin-Tech Saudi initiative, which aims to support the financial technology ecosystem by transforming Saudi Arabia into a fintech hub that harbors a flourishing and proficient ecosystem including banks, investors, companies, universities, and government agencies in a manner that promotes financial inclusion and increase electronic transactions.

What was your experience throughout the pandemic? How did you react initially, and what patterns have you seen in spending and data since it began?

Today, Saudi Arabia is notably more advanced than any country in the region or globally in the payments sector. It has the infrastructure, and the government had already started e-government before the coronavirus pandemic. For many activities, the base was already there, and all we needed was a trigger to promote it, get people to start using it, and build their confidence in it. After months of lock-down and social distancing as a result of COVID-19, consumers were forced to pay differently around the world and across sectors, fully relying on online and cash-less payments for everything from hand sanitizer to daily needs supplies, pushing toward a cashless society. As we are a fully digital platform that came to remove hassles and provide digital wheels of financial controls, we were ready for such a pandemic. Our product has no mediator and offers directly to customers through digital solutions.

There have been many regulatory changes to create this playing field and a space for you to grow. How will these changes drive or change your business in 2021?

We appreciate the central bank's work to change regulations to accommodate different activities and open doors for every-one to grow in the ecosystem. The instant payment system (IPS) introduction will significantly change the ecosystem and positively affect our growth stage. I am pleased to report that we are growing by triple digits to date and confirm that the trend will continue. stc pay will continue to add different products and services that people have been anticipating for years, with easy and instant methods. We are a customer-centric, data-driven company that uses data to predict customers' pace and needs. This is precisely why stc pay claims to create a difference in people's lives and add convenient financial services. We view 2021 as a promising year. The energy and passion from the team, the people around us, the company, and the shareholders are what drives us forward towards a brighter future and help us reach where we are today. The expectations are astonishingly high, and we plan to surpass them.

Why do you think your transactions doubled after the introduction of the IPS Sarie?

It is a network effect. Sarie came with an IPS system that significantly boosted the ecosystem and will continue to do so. It used to take us a week to transfer money internationally. When IPS and Sarie system launched as part of SAMA-led initiatives series to promote the national payments' ecosystem and to enhance its infrastructure and achieve financial inclusion, people realized the importance of instant, easy, and cashless payments, which translated into transaction increases.