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5 Challenger banks revamping the banking sector in MENA

By Leandra Monteiro

September 06, 2022

  • Central Bank of the UAE
  • Challenger Banks
  • Digital Transformation

Challenger banks, bankingThe digital revolution that has revamped global industries has reached the realm of banking. Newer generations prefer convenience and ease of use, and traditional banking does not offer it. The tug of war between the established players of today and the neo-challengers of tomorrow will be won by those that adopt customer-centric Digital Banking technologies fast.

Neobanks and Challenger banks are often seen as more flexible and inclusive alternatives to traditional banks. Traditional banks, too, have recognised this fact and have begun creating digital-only banking subsidiaries.

Here are 5 notable Neobanks in the MENA region:

Liv. is a neobank based in United Arab Emirates offering Personal accounts including a debit card, with all transactions being managed from an iPhone or Android application. Liv. currently accepts open mobile bank accounts for residents of Dubai (U.A.E).

A digital-only banking subsidiary of Emirates NBD. Liv products are designed for a “digital generation” and are “simple, flexible and convenient”. Liv’s account comes with an app and a card. Among its perks are shopping and dining rewards and discounts, easy money sharing via social media, and a 2% interest. In spring 2019, it launched a conversational chatbot called Olivia, powered by Kasisto and its flagship KAI offering.

meem Digital Banking by Gulf International Bank, is the first digital Shariah Compliant bank in the world launched in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2014 and began operations in the Kingdom of Bahrain in March 2018.

meem Digital Banking by Gulf International Bank, is owned by the six Governments of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Bank’s primary shareholder is the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which holds a majority stake of 97.2%. In Saudi Arabia, GIB is 50% owned by GIB Group and 50% by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and was the first international bank to receive a local license, making it a 100% Saudi bank.

Vbank is a digital bank powered by VFD Microfinance Bank, headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria. VFD Microfinance Bank is regulated by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

With a V Account, customers can expect a streamlined digital and mobile banking experience, with ease of access to their accounts, swift and secure transfers, withdrawals and bill payments. Vbank makes book-keeping fun and eco-friendly with paperless documentation, seamless social media integration, geo-tagging, and photo-sharing.

Founded in 2017 by Saad Ansari (CEO) and Konstantin Danilkov (CTO) in 2017, Xpence calls itself “Gulf region’s first neobank designed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs”. Xpence is the next generation smart business expense management platform with integrated physical and virtual Visa cards for freelancers, start-ups, SMEs and large corporates.

Xpence raised $1.1 million in its pre-seed round from investors in the UK, including UFP Fintech (an early investor in Revolut), as well as from UHNW family offices in Saudi Arabia.

Licensed by the Central Bank of the UAE, Zand is the first digital bank to provide both retail and corporate banking. In addition to innovative banking services, Zand is set to be a digital economic accelerator, providing the foundations for a broader generation of digital services.

Through fully digital offerings, Zand will make banking quicker and simpler, and provide tools that put customers in control of their financial lives. Zand will also be unique in its focus on ecosystems and communities of businesses and individuals, enabling it to introduce products and services not traditionally available.

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