Paving Way for Digital Innovation

Gulf Insider talks to Abdulwahed Al-Janahi, CEO of BENEFIT, on the company’s vision and their contribution towards Bahrain’s digital society.
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Can you tell us how the company’s vision has evolved over the years?

Our vision and plans have evolved quite a lot with time. When we started out, our initial aim was to connect the local banks (local debit cards issuers) for ATM and POS (Point of Sale) switching. We knew we had to look for opportunities to develop. So we decided to extend our services beyond Bahrain and that is how we became a member of the GCC network.

In the last decade, we have gone beyond the card service industry to cover other domains in financial and non-financial services with a focus on connecting financial transactions, customer information services, and business outsourcing.

What we are working on now is to provide an effective shared business platform service to all stakeholders in Bahrain. This is in line with supporting the national direction of Bahrain towards a digital economy with a focus on digital society and sustainable innovation.

What are the main challenges you faced in accomplishing your vision?

Penetrating into an untapped market for a cashless society is the top priority for us. There were lots of things we had to look into – technology, adoption, and awareness. In addition to that, we also had to work on the end-users’ adaptation, behavior, and trust towards the utilization of new FinTech solutions. This is a national direction and we are keen towards working on it, aiming to achieve a comprehensive cashless society.

What was Benefit’s primary focus last year?

In 2019, our main focus was to direct the society towards digital culture and to make things easier for businesses in Bahrain through the Benefit Plus and Benefit Data services. These were designed with the customer’s lifestyle in mind and aimed at making the community a business-friendly one.

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Customers’ data and information provider through e-KYC (Electronic Know Your Customer) and BenefitPay mobile application were our major achievements last year. It was a year of BENEFIT’s B2B and B2C models. These additions have not only exposed BENEFIT in the Bahrain community but have also created a positive impact on the country’s digital transformation.

Nezar Maroof, Yousif Al-Nefaie, Abdulwahed Al-Janahi, Hessa Hussain and Riyad Al-Maraj

How has the Benefit Company contributed towards Bahrain’s credentials as a regional financial hub?

We are recognized for a number of national services. The eKYC shared platform based on the Private-Public Partnership model between BENEFIT, CBB and IGA have positively influenced Bahrain’s FinTech ecosystem. We have also initiated a national Token Vault in collaboration with international schemes such as VISA and MasterCard for debit/credit cards for contactless mobile payments.

We are continuously developing our existing services to provide innovative electronic payments, transfers, and business outsourcing services. We have collaborated with international partners such as Swift, MasterCard, NPCI, and NETS so that electronic payments and international fund transfers can be done much faster.

We have also extended our business shared services to the new financial technology service providers in the FinTech domain such as the PSP, TPPs, startups and many others.

How did the economic policy of Bahrain accelerate BENEFIT’s growth?

Bahrain’s Economic Development Board(EDB) established the Bahrain FinTech-bay as a regional innovation hub and this has created various business opportunities for our company. Through BENEFIT’s FinTech lab, we are exploring the innovative solutions of startups and FinTech companies. This has enabled us to provide better digital services to our customers.

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CBB has also established the Sandbox so that regional and international FinTech companies are able to integrate with the BENEFIT ecosystem for financial and non-financial transactions.

Any remarkable achievements you would like to share?

We launched the eKYC or the Electronic Know Your Customer last February. Since then, around 27 banks have incorporated the process with their services and more than 1000 bank users are already trained in it. Money exchange companies and Payment Service Providers(PSPs) are also joining the service in 2020.

We are quite satisfied with the growth rate of our BenefitPay application. It is being used by more than 280K users and transactions through the application have crossed 5.5 Million. The Electronic Funds Transfer System(EFTS) has also attained 82 percent growth with more than 15 Million transactions. Also, the Bahrain Credit Reference Bureau(BCRB) is now integrated with four banks for online credit services and two of them have already initiated granting loans to clients.

Are there any new projects in 2020?

We are working on multiple projects. You will see QR mobile switch,   BenefitPay for online check-out with Bahrain.bh, fuel payment, remittance, eKYC enhancement with Facial recognition and online customers’ onboarding coming up in the near
term.

Visit benefit.bh to know more about BENEFIT’s latest initiatives and strategies for Bahrain.

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