What do you hope to achieve in your current position, and what is your greatest challenge to making it happen?
We’re trying to achieve financial inclusion, which is empowering people with the financial products that will help them in their lives Everyone in society should have access to financial products. We’re looking at micro financing and being able to give lower income or small businesses small loans and financial assistance. The main challenge is the regulations we are trying to work around. Especially when it comes to contracts, e-commerce laws, and the GCC in general. It’s more on the legal side than the regulatory framework. The regulatory authority has been very cooperative. The leadership and government see the improvement of loans, financial advisory, investments, savings, and payments contribute to empowering the economy and employment.
What are the major technological innovations taking place within your industry and how are you taking advantage of them?
A revolution has already started in the financial industry. Tech currencies, modes of payment, and transaction processes are all going cloud-based. A lot of services are already attainable simply through the internet without the need for concrete transactions.
The upcoming cashless society is going to change the personalized banking experience. Social media movement gives us a better glimpse of the individual and can be used to tailor promotions, financial advice, and such. Linking customer data to the bank allows them to finance, assist, and advise much more effectively.
Do you have any criticism of your industry as it currently is?
Confidentiality is one issue that’s always brought up. Although the information needed for a personalized banking experience is similar to what we already share in social media, some people are still skeptical of sharing that information. Millennials have a more lenient mindset towards online privacy. Rest assured, the information we gather is strictly confidential.
Another criticism is how conservative the banking industry tends to be. They have lacked innovation, believing they had no reason to change. Unfortunately for them, technology continues to move forward and if they do not jump to the trends that come, third-party companies will.
What changes do you expect to the customer experience over the next few years?
Biometrics would largely be the only ID we’d ever need. We’d also each have our own blockchain ID that holds all our required information and banking details. We can then pay without needing a card or money removing queues and having faster transactions.
Personalized promotions can also be automatically included in purchases. If you have a 50% discount for a certain store, you avail of it automatically without prior knowledge of it.
Loans and other banking services can also be availed on the spot. Countries adopting their own cryptocurrencies is also a possibility. The global banking experience would be efficient and instantaneous, fewer fees for remittances and currency conversion. I imagine banking will also be free. Income from transaction fees or processing fees will be inconsequential to the data they get from customers. It’s going to be a different model, with information as its capital.
Do you have a vision for your industry that you can share?
The vision I have is the industry being seamless and open. A global banking experience in between various countries, whereas a customer can take a loan in Bahrain that they will finance in another country. Being able to avail of services both inside and outside the country.
What challenges do you believe Bahrain faces in the coming years to its status as a regional financial hub, and how should it address them?
We have big potential as a financial hub. Currently, we have abundant talent here in Bahrain concerning financing. However, we have a long path to cover especially in regulations. We also need to have a transparent e-commerce law. In the digital age, the conventional signed agreement will often be replaced by digital ones.
The GCC union is also important in improving integration. One company being able to work within the GCC rather than just one of its countries. A unified network with a single body of regulators is efficient and effective. We need the GCC and companies involved in it to be part of the adapting financial ecosystem.