Bankers Advocate Smarter Payment Technologies

Abdul Basit
Filed on February 2, 2010

DUBAI — Financial institutions and telecom operators in the Middle East will have to work together to tap into opportunities presented by modern electronic payments systems, including mobile banking and money transfers.

Senior bankers said clients in the Middle East, like everywhere else, need faster and reliable banking services on mobile phones, a concept fast taking hold globally.

Customers’ level of expectation has gone up due to the global credit crisis and they demand excellent service and quality, they told a seminar called: “World Cards and Payments Summit 2010”, organised by event management firm Fleming Gulf.

“Banks and mobile phone companies have to collaborate to bring smarter technologies because … the demand for simple and easy payment is going to come from consumer side,” Vimal Kumar, Senior Vice-president and Card Business Head of Mashreq told Khaleej Times on Monday on the sidelines of the seminar.

“We are quite behind compared to advanced countries such as the US and Europe and one of the fundamental issues is lack of security,” Kumar said.

The UAE, where around 80 per cent of the population belongs to expatriates, can get the benefits of remittances through mobile payments. Kumar said that financial institutions, telecom operators and exchange houses should work together to introduce this service.

Trevor Stokes, Executive Director for Business Development at Bahrain Economic Development Board, said: “Mobile payment would be a combined effort of banks, telecom providers and card companies and consumers would be the main beneficiaries of this service.”

It’s a long-term opportunity for all the stakeholders in the Middle East, Stokes said, adding that “opportunities exists for outsourcing, mergers and for rapid new innovative products in this region.”

Over 250 senior executives representing world players in the cards and retail payments industry will discuss their experience, case studies and best practices during the three-day event.

Dubai on Top

The UAE, being one of the markets with a high telecom penetration, has huge potential for mobile payment market, Vimal Kumar said.

“Mobile penetration in 2008 touched the 200 per cent mark from 72 per cent in 2002,” Telecommunications Regulatory Authority said in last December.

The regulator said in the first nine months of 2009, mobile subscribers have neared 10 million, pushing the penetration rate to 221 per cent.

Last month, Dubai eGovernment reported a remarkable surge in demand for its mobile payment service called: “mPay service” which recorded 8,380 transactions in 2009 and more than Dh1.5 million in payments processed compared with only 298 transactions and Dh25,000 in total payments in 2008.

mPay is a mobile payment service specially designed by Dubai eGovernment to provide an efficient and easy means of paying government fees in Dubai.

Three government departments — Roads and Transport Authority, Dubai Police and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority — have adopted the mPay platform as the eService allows users to top up their Salik credit, pay traffic fines to Dubai Police, and settle their DEWA bills. —

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