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27 September, 2021updated 29 Nov 2021 10:15

Abu Dhabi, the springboard for fintech innovation in MENA: Q&A with Tarabut Gateway’s Rob MacTighearnain

Consumers in all industries are demanding greater personalisation and a more streamlined experience, and the financial services are no exception.

The traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to banking is no longer enough. Incumbent banks are increasingly drawing on the capabilities of innovative technology startups to make better use of data and address any gaps in user experience.

The world-class ecosystem in Abu Dhabi is providing the springboard for fintech innovation and championing startups that are changing the face of the industry. Home to dynamic institutions like the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and world-class events like the annual Fintech Abu Dhabi forum, the emirate is recognised as a hub for the future of financial services, regionally and globally.

Rob MacTighearnain, head of finance at Tarabut Gateway, describes how Open Banking is bringing together financial institutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to shape the future of financial services and why the company is proud to operate from Abu Dhabi.

What is Tarabut Gateway?

Tarabut Gateway is the MENA region’s first and largest regulated Open Banking platform, connecting a regional network of banks and fintechs via a universal application programming interface (API). We launched in 2017, after we recognised that financial products and services still took a one-size-fits-all approach, and there was a huge opportunity for startups to address this. We give customers control and access to their financial information and enable institutions to build a new world of financial services in MENA through collaboration with fintechs.

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Following our initial success in Bahrain, we now operate across three key markets in the region, including Abu Dhabi, as a trusted Open Banking partner of multiple retail banks. We have landed record-breaking, MENA-based fintech seed funding, including financial incentives from the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) through Hub71, and are now expanding across the region.

As MENA’s fintech hub, what makes Abu Dhabi an ideal location for fintech innovators?

We expanded into Abu Dhabi because it is recognised as a tech hub for innovation and it is home to so many successful startups, such as Anghami and Pure Harvest. It has the tech talent we need and represents a great market opportunity for new technologies, making it the perfect place to introduce our Open Banking platform.

The leadership’s vision for driving the digital transformation of the financial services sector aligns with our goals. It also promotes transparency in relationships and processes and has established a collaborative ecosystem that welcomes innovative new ideas like Open Banking.

As a startup, supportive government programmes have provided us with the grounds to establish ourselves and facilitate connections with the right financial institutions and fintechs to partner with.  Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 has made it easy to do business in the UAE, providing support for our registration and guiding the development of our go-to-market strategy for the region.

The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) has helped us through the onboarding process, including processing our application, submitting our documents and finalising registration. We are happy to be part of this ecosystem, in which we have established relationships with stakeholders and have access to a great pool of talent. ADGM really demonstrated just how dynamic and agile it is by supporting us in our expansion journey during the pandemic.

Establishing operations in Abu Dhabi has helped place Tarabut Gateway on the map when it comes to attracting talent and investment interest. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for MENA to gain a leading position in the global Fintech arena, and something that we are immensely proud to be playing a part in.

We are witnessing the global personalisation of consumer financial information, which is driving change across the ecosystem. The future of financial services will be interconnected and purely digital. Customers will no longer need to visit a physical branch or provide endless documents and paperwork every time they apply for a new product or service.

In recent years, sectors such as shopping and streaming have evolved tremendously by leveraging new technology and data, with the likes of Netflix and Amazon providing product recommendations to customers based on their interests. So far, the financial services sector remains fragmented and still operates under the one-size-fits-all model. But today’s customers are looking for products and services to suit their individual needs.

Financial institutions have begun to realise the importance of the data they possess and what they can achieve by leveraging technologies such as Open Banking to address the customer experience gap, by fostering collaboration between financial institutions and Fintech to develop better products and services.

Banks are opening to external third-party providers (TPPs) and fintechs to offer a more personalised financial service. We are also seeing more partnerships between large, traditional financial institutions and these smaller fintechs. The industry understands more than ever that collaboration is the new form of competition.

Open Banking is key to enabling these partnerships, acting as a catalyst for transforming the way banks and fintechs interact with each other. As financial institutions realise the potential of Open Banking in MENA, Tarabut Gateway provides the digital infrastructure where all players can plug in, collaborate, test out new innovative solutions and continue to fuel Fintech growth in the region.

As MENA’s first and largest Open Banking platform, what do you offer?

We have managed to successfully build MENA’s largest multi-sided open API infrastructure, which we launched in 2019. We continue to enable banks, fintechs and TPPs to build a new world of financial services by providing an open platform in which all ecosystem players can collaborate and test new innovative products and solutions to address the gaps in the financial services sector.

We help banks understand their customers better and provide personalised products and services. Banks can benefit from Open Banking to lower customer acquisition costs and increase customer retention rates by increasing engagement on digital platforms. We help financial institutions embrace these benefits through consulting services which help them develop their roadmap and strategy.

On the other side, we provide fintechs with the open platform to collaborate with a network of banks and clients by allowing them to test, scale and monetise their products and solutions.

We are excited for the future of Open Banking in MENA and look forward to being a driving force of change by providing the necessary infrastructure to enable a new world of financial services.

To find out more about fintech and innovation investment opportunities in Abu Dhabi, download the Abu Dhabi Prospectus above.

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