In this episode of The Change Officer, part of the Future of Financial Services series, we're joined by Andrew Gold, co-founder and head of engineering for Ziina. Andrew talks about how they have made digital payments between individuals a breeze.
The Payments Revolution
The payments revolution is imminent. For decades, the market has yearned for an improvement on the SWIFT system that has served as the backbone for payments across Europe and many parts of the globe. Criticized for being clumsy and difficult to use, fintechs around the world are racing to provide a permanent solution to the outdated system. This week’s guest is Andrew Gold, co-founder and head of engineering for Ziina. As the first peer-to-peer payments solution in the MENA region, Ziina is an innovative fintech working to make digital payments between individuals a breeze. Andrew shares how he believes the payments industry needs to change.
How Fintechs Have Empowered the Masses
Andrew notes how although the MENA fintech ecosystem is still in its infancy, tremendous progress has been made across multiple sectors. He cites the systemic improvements to easy stock investing as one win for the fintech world and praises how the sector has made investing simpler for the common person. Easy investing allows the ordinary masses to access equity gains, which is just one way fintechs have empowered the masses.
Buy now pay later services have also allowed a class of people who have historically had very limited access to credit the opportunity to use credit in a relatively low-risk fashion, and micro-lending is slated to take off in the near future, Andrew observes. With all these industries in their nascency within the UAE, Andrew expresses his excitement at the growth prospects displayed by the region.
Key Technologies For Fintech’s Future
With some areas reporting over 100% cell penetration, the UAE leads the pack in terms of digital access. Even so, the region remains under-banked as up to 20% of people still do not have a bank account. Andrew Gold believes that this discrepancy can be traced down to accessibility. Some individuals can’t access the necessary paperwork to open a bank account, while other individuals can’t afford to keep the minimum amount required by banks to even open an account.
Andrew believes that technology could be the solution to many of these problems. He points to cryptocurrency as a truly frictionless mode of transaction, and then he lists cloud services and machine learning as a few technological advances that might revolutionize banking and payments.
The Value of Partnerships
Andrew emphasizes the importance of assembling a great team. With the team that he’s assembled at Ziina, Andrew is confident that they can develop all their key technologies in-house. However, beyond technology, partnership is essential to survival, Andrew states. Since Ziina is fundamentally a technology company, they’ve had to partner with entities such as banks and payment gateways to achieve several of their goals.
Andrew believes that this strategy allows them to focus on their core values and provide the best experience possible, and he also remains open to facilitating the core values of their partners. For Andrew, the relationship between banks and fintechs could develop a beautiful, harmonic synergy. Andrew believes that fintechs offer banks an extended reach at a reduced price and doing so will allow the entire community to thrive more.
From Andrew’s experience, customers have a much lower risk appetite when it comes to their favoured fintech apps. While a bug while streaming a show or chatting to your friend might be annoying, a bug while making a transaction would be downright scary, Andrew observes. He says that it’s for this reason that Ziina places special emphasis on quality control and making sure their product overcomes a high bar.
The second layer of differentiation comes from the social aspect of money, Andrew notes. By giving people the tools they need to accept and make digital payments easily, Andrew believes that they can create a lifetime value proposition for the customer. With all these elements in place, Andrew believes that fintechs like Ziina will be welcomed by the market as they continue to empower the unbanked.
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