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Railsbank news round-up: The FinTech Abu Dhabi Festival

A brief look back at week 43 at some of the news that’s not always picked up.

The FinTech Abu Dhabi Festival

Last week’s FinTech Abu Dhabi Festival, attended by Railsbank and many other influential finetchs, kicked off with an investor forum.

Organisers set the scene by highlighting the fact that global investors are increasingly looking to the Middle East and North Africa for the next unicorn and high return investments.

Railsbank’s Shaul David was there, as over 400 people gathered at Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Authorities Building for the inaugural FinTech Abu Dhabi Investor Forum day where the growth of the FinTech industry in MENA was the lead topic.

Opening the festival, Richard Teng, CEO of Financial Services Regulatory Authority of ADGM, said: "In the first half of 2019, the MENA region saw close to half a billion USD of VC (Venture Capital) funding in start-ups, excluding Souq and Careem. This is a 66% increase compared to the same period last year. More than a quarter of the funding was invested in the UAE, with the FinTech industry being the most vibrant sector, accounting for 17% of all deals done."

"Moving ahead, close to 500 FinTech companies in the Middle East will raise over USD 2 billion in venture capital funding in the next 3 years, based on a Milken Institute Report. And

Abu Dhabi will be at the epicentre of this exciting development."

He added: "Great strides for FinTech have already been made in the MENA region, but there are massive opportunities for more. And there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings like today's Forum to build closer ties, and find new ways to create value."

Shaul was impressed with the quality of the attendees and the Railsbank stand was one of the best visited.

“We often had a queue of three deep. I had conversations with a wide range of companies and organizations, and spoke to a number of the local banks. It was great to start a dialogue with so many companies.”

The event, which had attracted over 5,000 registrations, saw start-ups RISQ and Jibrel Network emerge as the two winners of the FinTech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge. The pair took home a "Proof of Concepts" grant of up to SGD 200,000 (AED 540,000) each and the opportunity to attend Singapore FinTech Festival in November.

As for evolving trends in the FinTech ecosystem Omar Christidis, Founder and CEO of ArabNet, discussed how different regulations and an unwillingness to share client data by banks are among the hurdles facing FinTech firms.

He said: "Talent and upscaling initiatives in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are training the next generation," said Mr Christidis. "However, the sector is held back by different regulations in different countries.

"Entities such as GFIN (Global Financial Innovation Network) are trying to harmonise regulations across countries so FinTechs can move quickly from market to market. Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain are part of GFIN, which shows how important these markets are."

Open Banking that allows FinTechs to access a client's bank details to build services is another area where companies are facing issues, with many banks not sharing key information.

"Bahrain is the only place that has mandated open banking by the banks, but it needs to happen elsewhere."

Women's World Banking hosts Making Finance Work for Women

Over to Singapore and we heard that Global NGO Women's World Bankinghas hosted its biennial international gathering, the Making Finance Work for Women Summit, in the City.

The Summit featured leading international experts in driving innovations in women's financial inclusion. More than 300 attendees from more than 40 countries participated in interactive workshops, debates, plenary sessions and the inaugural FinTech Innovation Challenge.

"Nearly one billion women around the world do not have access to formal financial services and hundreds of millions more are underserved. Our Making Finance Work for Women Summit will address the obstacles financial service providers face in meeting these women's needs and the solutions that will allow them to reach this market at scale," said Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women's World Banking.

"We want all attendees to leave the Summit with concrete steps they can take in their own organizations to make finance work for women worldwide as a critical step in building a more equitable world," continued Iskenderian.

The summit will also included the Women's World Banking's inaugural FinTech Innovation Challenge in partnership with the Singapore FinTech Festival and KPMG Digital Village.

"With more than 80 applicants to the FinTech Innovation Challenge, it was exciting to see so many FinTech solutions addressing the needs of unbanked and underserved women around the globe," said Iskenderian. "Our four finalists show great promise in addressing women's economic security and prosperity. I am particularly excited to see that all of our finalists have women CEOs and/or Founders."

Luge adds investors

The fintech scene in Canada is on the up and we saw that Luge Capital announced that iA Financial Group and BDC Capital have invested in the fintech-focused venture capital fund, bringing the total size to $85 million.

Luge Capital works with early-stage companies and a network of leading financial institutions to help build the next generation of financial services. iA Financial Group ($187bn AUM/ AUA) and BDC Capital (over $3bn AUM) are added to the current set of fund investors: Desjardins (largest federation of credit unions in North America), CDPQ (over $300bn AUM worldwide), Sun Life Financial ($1 trillion AUM), La Capitale ($2.4bn in revenue) and Fonds de solidarité FTQ ($15.6bn AUM).

"Investing in Luge Capital is a great way for iA Financial Group to identify promising startups with whom we can collaborate and further our own mission for innovation," said Pierre Miron, E.V.P. Information Technologies at iA Financial Group. "The financial services industry is rapidly changing as customer needs change, and we are eager to play a key role in the transformation to better serve our customers."

Berkeley acquires Pungle

Still in Canada and Berkeley Payment Solutions, a leading global payments solution provider, today announced the acquisition of fintech start-up, Pungle, an innovative payments platform that enables frictionless, real-time transfers.

"This acquisition positions Berkeley to be one of the most innovative, fastest-growing FinTech companies globally," said Jonathon Hamburg, CEO and Founder of Berkeley. "We are thrilled to join forces and welcome the Pungle team to our fold, as this will allow us to continue to innovate and build impactful payment technology platforms."

PecunPay chooses IBM Services

In Europe, Spanish fintech startup PecunPay, provider of payment and electronic money exchange solutions, said it will take advantage of IBM Services to implement Red Hat OpenShift to help drive business.

PecunPay manages more than 500,000 cards and supports over 1,200 payment terminals for traditional companies and Spanish fintech startups. PecunPay makes it possible for companies and merchants to offer financial solutions to their clients without giving up their own corporate brand, under the legal and technological protection of PecunPay and regulated by the Bank of Spain.

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