Fintech trailblazer hits United Arab Emirates

European challenger bank takes its financial technology (fintech) model to the Middle East with the opening of an office in Dubai

German challenger bank Fidor has opened up an operation in Dubai to gain access to the Middle East market.

The bank, which launched in 2007 and gained a banking license in the UK in 2015, has opened its Dubai office in the Dubai Silicon Oasis park. The office will form a central hub for its international activities.

In 2007, CEO Matthias Kröner and his colleagues applied to the Federal Financial Supervisory Authority BaFin for a banking licence in Germany. Fidor Bank was born soon after. Fidor uses social media to overcome the cost and complexity of traditional banking, while increasing customer trust through an online community.

It has an open-technology platform that it developed itself, which can be plugged into via application programming interfaces (APIs). For example, as a result of open APIs its current  account  customers can access 25 different services.

According to Kröner, Fidor has had enquiries from companies in Asia, Africa and the Middle East wanting to improve their digital services.

“It was only a matter of time before we began expanding our business to other countries,” he said. “The Dubai Silicon Oasis is an ideal location for this project, because it’s one of the biggest free zones in the Middle East, with more than 1,000 companies already installed.”

This could be an important launch for the Middle East. Alternative financial platforms – such as crowdfunding sites and peer-to-peer lending – have become the norm in the world’s fintech hotspots, including the UK, but according to experts the global trend has yet to infiltrate the Middle East.

The latest report from FinTech Week stated that less than 0.1% of fintech investment originates in the Middle East.

“Consequently, the region’s banks and fintech startups are lagging behind their foreign counterparts in the development of new services and business models,” David Martinez de Lecea, a principal at Roland Berger, told Computer Weekly.

Standard Chartered's regional CIO for Africa and the Middle East, V Chandrasekar, recently confirmed that the bank was investing in setting up fintech incubators across markets including Dubai to stay abreast of trends.

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