PRESS: Virtual banks 'to dominate future banking sector'

Article by Abdulaziz Khattak as featured on Trade Arabia | February 22, 2019

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The near and distant future of the financial world in general and banking in particular was showcased at the third Middle East and Africa FinTech Forum, which saw industry experts from around the world speak to hundreds of delegates on trending topics such as financial inclusion, open banking, and artificial intelligence (AI) among others, writes Abdulaziz Khattak for Trade Arabia.

The forum was this year hosted by Bank ABC and Arab Financial Services (AFS) under the theme “Banking – Beyond Disruption.”

Officials from the Central Banks of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia attended along with senior representatives from the Mena region’s banking, finance, telecom and tech industries.

Moderated by Aaron Heslehurst, host of BBC World News programme Talking Business, the conference started with a speech by Sophia – the world’s most famous social humanoid robot – on the potential of FinTech and AI’s contribution to the development of society.

Sael AI Waary, the Deputy Group CEO of Bank ABC and AFS Chairman then spoke about the current state of FinTech and even made predictions for the future.

Al Wary specifically highlighted the potential impact of FinTech on corporate banking, which has till now been overlooked.

He also unveiled Fatema, Bank ABC’s and the region’s first emotionally-intelligent digital employee. Built by New Zealand-based Soul Machines, Fatema engages with customers using cutting-edge digital neurology and AI.

Overall, AI Waary said digital banking would greatly reduce the cost of banking services but will improve their quality.

This was followed by Heslehurst’s discussion with the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) Governor Rasheed AI Maraj, who stressed that CBB is not only a regulator but an enabler of innovation and advancement in banking.
Al Rasheed emphasised that a practical approach was needed to find the right balance between enabling innovation and protecting the financial system.

Next off was Brett King, author of Amazon best-seller Bank 4.0 and host of a top-ranked FinTech podcast in the world, Breaking Banks.

Tracing the advancements banking had gone through – from Bank 1.0 until Bank 4.0 – he said there had been radical changes in the industry with much more to come.

King said last year in China alone, more than $22 trillion worth of transactions were made in mobile payments.


soul machines photo gallery of the Middle East and Africa FinTech Forum

 
 

© Soul Machines


 
Outside the main conference hall, an exhibition hosted a range of stalls from Bank ABC, AFS, and guests such as MasterCard, Backbase and the Central Bank of Bahrain. These stalls showcased innovative financial technology products, giving visitors the opportunity to see the latest in wearable payment tech, mobile applications, and other developments. The most exciting part of the exhibition was the public debut of ‘Fatema’, who is the region’s first ever emotionally-intelligent ‘digital employee’. Built by New Zealand-based Soul Machines for Bank ABC, ‘Fatema’ appears as an on-screen employee and uses cutting edge digital neurology and artificial intelligence to emotionally engage with customers. She is capable of engaging in natural conversation with customers, measuring emotions and expressing emotions of her own in return. Visitors to the exhibition were able to speak with her and ask her questions on specific Bank ABC products and services. In future when she is more widely available online, however, she will be able to respond to a wider range of queries about Bank ABC and its services.
— Press Release - Bank ABC
 
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