A Dubai-based fintech startup, Bankiom wants to deliver a much better banking experience to digitally native customers. Launched in March 2022, so far Bankiom has more than 30,000 verified users, growing at 20 percent per week. “Our target is to get to 1 million users within three years,” says Danny Abla, co-founder of Bankiom.
Stressing on the fact that Bankiom isn’t a bank, it has no plans to replace traditional banks, Abla just wants to “amplify their value proposition and deliver value to our customers (which includes customers of their banking partners).”
One of the ways new-age fintech startups like Bankiom are appealing to digital natives is by revamping the traditional banking experience and bringing it closer in line with their online experiences. “In our new customer on-boarding system in the UAE, we took out the passport and the proof of address steps and automated the approval process,” explains Abla, “and now all you need to do is take a selfie and a picture of your UAE ID and you should get approved in less than a minute.”
Bankiom’s tapping into the growing needs of MENA’s young population, where 50 percent are below the age of 30 years. Not just young, they’re also tech-savvy, since GCC alone has one of the world’s highest rates of internet penetration at 98 percent of the region’s population. “But we are still behind in terms of fintech regulations and services, something that’s changing really fast in the region, as the market and opportunities exist. Now the regulator is getting on-board, attracting increased investor interest,” suggests Abla.
Abla points at open banking regulatory reforms happening in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and now the UAE following suit. “It will transfer innovation from the silos of banks to fintechs so that together and in partnership with banks, fintechs can build a virtuous financial ecosystem for the benefit of all users,” he explains.
There’s growing momentum in the entire fintech ecosystem of the region, a fact corroborated by several industry reports. The fintech sector in the Middle East and Africa Region (MENA) has already raised $1.73 billion in the first half of 2022, according to a November 2022 report by Strategy&, a global strategy consulting business. The report pegs the amount of fintech investment in the MENA region reaching $448 million in 2021 across 108 transactions, spurred by the increase in number of fintech hubs in GCC from one in 2018 to four in 2022 – Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), Bahrain FinTech Bay, Fintech Saudi, and the FinTech Hive at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). In 2020, the e-payment platform Fawry became the region’s first unicorn.