In the Middle East, banks are very quickly and successfully rising to the new digital opportunities in front of them. A long standing friend, Temenos continues to support banks in the Middle East reach their full digital potential. Briony Richter discusses the Temenos strategy with Jean-Paul Mergeai, Managing Director, Middle East and Africa for Temenos.
A combination of evolving consumer preferences and changing regulations has forced banks around the world to up their game on their digitalisation strategy. Banks in the Middle East are embarking on a digital transformation journey to meet the needs of their growing consumer base.
It’s clear across the market that banks need a complete end-to-end digital renovation in order to deliver products and services in a frictionless manner. The focus in the Middle East surrounds seamlessly migrating their customers from physical channels to digital means of banking.
The region is booming with digital innovation. Banks like Emirates launched its digital banking proposition, Liv to entice customers to bank digitally.
In the UAE, a number of banks have undertaken numerous digital banking initiatives, ranging from launching separate digital-only banking platforms, to strengthening existing mobile banking services. In addition, Commercial Bank of Dubai launched CBD NOW which targeted millennials and other digitally-savvy customers.
Jean-Paul Mergeai heads up the Middle East and African regions where Temenos has been present in for over twenty years.
The Middle East’s digital edge
Over the couple last of years, the Middle East has witnessed rapid digital growth. This has been supported by the government that has also been focusing on providing all the relevant digital infrastructure to accelerate growth.
Speaking to RBI about his role at Temenos and the Middle East’s banking landscape, Mergeai says:
“I manage our operations in the Middle East and in Africa. We have roughly 300 clients in my region.
“It’s a big footprint and we have been focusing on both the Middle East and Africa for a very long time.” He adds, “we recorded our first successes in the Middle East 23 years ago and around the same amount of time in Africa so we have a long standing track record of implementing our technology in both markets.
“Most of our clients are retail banks but we also have a number of Islamic finance institutions and a number of banks that do corporate banking.”
Change in the Middle East’s financial sector can often seem painfully slow from a western perspective but Mergeai highlights that the ambition to digitise is just as strong in the Middle East as it is in Europe or the Americas.
“I find the Middle Eastern banks very open to digitalisation. There’s a lot of interest between Middle Eastern banks for the combination of robust, scalable platforms with a great dose of innovation and digital capabilities. They desire openness and seize opportunities that digitisation offers them. That’s why banks were so excited about the introduction of Temenos Infinity and Temenos Transact.
Temenos Transact is cloud-native and cloud-agnostic. The API core banking solution offers Temenos clients scalability across numerous areas of banking. It also enables banks with the flexibility to quickly innovate, making it easier to keep up with consumer demands.
Cloud technology is an essential component in the digitalisation process. For Temenos clients, using their core banking solutions like Temenos Transact and Temenos Infinity makes them more agile.
“I can only see benefits in cloud banking,” Mergeai notes, “ both in the Middle East and in Africa there is still a little bit of resistance towards cloud banking and this mainly organised by regulators who are, at this stage, not convinced at the security aspects or data sovereignty.
“We are spending some time explaining the benefits. Actually, a lot of banks are asking us to lobby and present the benefits of cloud banking and I’m sure that it is something that will catch up in my region.”
Technology is a great enabler. A big benefit of the Middle Eastern market is that a lot of banks don’t have to deal with the clutter of inefficient infrastructure like legacy systems.
2018 was a very busy year for Temenos and the start of 2019 has been no different.
In February 2019, Al Rajhi Bank selected Temenos to power its digital transformation process.
The bank is the largest Islamic bank in the world with total assets of over $97bn. The bank will use Temenos Transact as well as Temenos Infinity.
Speaking about the partnership, Mergeai states:
“Al Rajhi is going to be doing what we call progressive transformation. The first stage of the project is really going to focus on lending – its retail and corporate lending.
“The bank was really seduced by the overall philosophy of the product and our approach. The philosophy is essentially based on standard, upgradeable and maintainable software. They were extremely excited about the functional richness of our solutions.
“Our historical presence in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East in general was also very important to them.”
Banking in the Middle East is changing fast but Mergeai highlights that the industry is ready to innovate quicker and more boldly.
“We will continue to support our existing clients and give them the ability to get enhanced value from our expanding functional footprint.
“We are also going to go aggressively after digital front end opportunities. We are already a very large actor in that space but we want to be even more of a relevant provider. The market is very exciting and the Middle East and Africa aren’t lagging behind at all in terms of technology.”
This article was first published in the Retail Banker International.