ahrain fledgling FinTech Bay (BFB), the largest hub of its kind in the Middle East and Africa, has a new recruit and she could be just what the doctor ordered after making a decisive diagnosis on the banking sector, a remedy to cure its ills and a stark warning of the fate awaiting those who don’t swallow the bitter pill of reality.
Dr Saeeda Jaffar has been appointed as an independent director of the executive board and comes with an impressive business pedigree and strong opinions as to how the banking sector should embrace new technology.
“I’m happy and excited to join the executive board as we move to evolve and focus on Fintech innovations in the MENA region,” said Dr Saeeda, who specialises in working with boards and management that want practical advice and rapid, tangible results.
She is currently managing director of Alvarez & Marsal in the Middle East and focuses on innovation and technology strategies for financial institutions. She also helped lead a discussion on so called ‘new challenger banks’ and how they are ‘disrupting current incumbents’ at The Second Middle East & Africa FinTech Forum staged at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay back in March.
Dr Saeeda recently published an article entitled Digitisation in the Banking Industry: How to Emerge a Winner which had some observers describing it as a ‘fantastic eye opener’ for ‘summing up’ the next banking and digital revolution.
“While at its core, the role of the bank is as it was many years ago, the banking sector has actually always faced disruption,” she suggested. “With technology, however, the time, pace and magnitude are different – specifically, the scale and speed of innovation, and the ability of the end-user to adapt new technologies. Banks must therefore act quickly and intelligently to keep pace. Digitisation is a race that disrupts many industries, and one where the winners and losers will have been redefined by the time everyone reaches the finish line.
“What this means is not that banks will become obsolete, but that it will change based on who was able to keep up – and those that couldn’t will simply be left behind.
“The good news is that each bank can determine its own fate by choosing whether it should evolve and adapt, and how it goes about it. The sooner that we accept that digitisation is not a trend but something that will impact every part of the industry, the sooner we can adapt.
“On the outside, digitisation is all about how banks interact with customers. Typically, individual customers are more digital, and consequently, there is often more focus on retail banking within the sector. Even within that, it is important to focus on a few, select user experiences.
“Institutional banking is also starting to become digital, led by transaction banking. On the other hand, it is just as important to recognise the benefits of digitisation internally. Digitisation can help banks remain competitive by ensuring they are operating in a faster, cheaper and more scalable manner.”
Dr Saeeda previously worked at Bain & Co in Dubai and McKinsey in New York and holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering from the Massachussets Institute of Technology.
She added: “I’m very pleased to have been appointed to the board of the Bahrain FinTech Bay. As the largest dedicated FinTech hub in the MENA region, it is well placed to apply the financial innovation that is so important for corporates and consumers alike to transact efficiently and securely in a commercial world that is changing at a faster rate than ever before.
“There is a first class team in place at the Bahrain FinTech Bay and I’m honoured to join them. I’m looking forward to working with them to apply our combined knowledge and experience to meet the challenges of the current market.”
Together with the board members and team at BFB, she will work towards ‘accelerating its position’. Khalid Saad, its CEO, said the team was ‘looking forward to working closely’ with her.
BFB’s founding partners represent a broad cross-section of Bahraini and global financial services and technology industry leaders, such as the National Bank of Bahrain, Arab Financial Services, Payment International Enterprise, Investcorp and Microsoft. They believe that FinTech is a ‘crucial infrastructure layer’ to strengthen financial services.
Its Arcapita building location provides a physical hub to incubate FinTech initiatives through innovation labs, acceleration programmes, curated activities, educational opportunities and collaborative platforms.
BFB is already working with industry leaders and new entrants to drive innovation and create opportunities for growth. It is operated by Fintech Consortium (FinCon), a global ecosystem builder which also has a hub in Singapore and the US too.
Stanley Louis Szecowka
Editor/Journalist & Blogger, Restaurant & Motors Reviewer, FinTech Writer, Manager, Trainer.
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