Reason for Consolidations in the UAE Banking Sector
Fintech is radically changing the finance industry. Innovations such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain technology, biometric identification, cloud computing, and the use of big data are revolutionizing the industry. During the past five years, more than US$100 billion has been invested in the Fintech sector, and 73% of this investment was focused on retail banking. Thus, the impact of the current and increasing FinTech disruption is on the banking sector, and this is forcing banks to invest heavily in latest technologies for their existence or they will perish in the near future.
The retail banking experience:
Even individuals who have access to a bank account and who are able to go into a nearby branch, often don’t want to because the experience is so unpleasant. Investors and Fintech entrepreneurs have recognized that traditional retail banks have failed the consumer in this respect, and are developing new technologies that allow for a more enjoyable financial experience.
These are banks, such as the United Kingdom’s Monzo and Starling Bank, that are purely digital. These banks conduct most of their operations via mobile phone, providing fast, painless and pleasant user experience. From the investor’s perspective, it costs up to 50% less to set up the digital infrastructure for a challenger bank than for a traditional bank, and challenger banks require up to 90% less staff to run them. Moreover, their use of automation and sophisticated data technology means they are highly efficient financial service platforms, forcing established retail banks to reinvent their business models in an effort to keep up.
Some banks in the GCC have already merged, few are in the process of merging, some have announced their intentions for the merger, and many are in the preliminary discussions on merging. In my opinion, this increasing trend among the GCC banks forming alliances or merging is basically to survive the Fintech disruption and the challenges from new entrants from the non-banking sector and I doubt what kind of synergies they are going to achieve – it is a survival strategy.
Disclaimer: The above is personal opinion expressed as part of academic exercise.