Future-proof seamless payment solutions

Filed on March 29, 2021

Navigating financial landscapes isn't easy. A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, Arab Financial Services (AFS) continues to lead the way in the region's payments space with rapidly evolving solutions that cater to today and tomorrow's digital native consumers, merchants, SMEs, financial institutions, and, of course, the banking sector as a whole.

A tradition built upon payments evolution and innovation

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AFS business is built upon meaningful innovation that drives payments transformation. As the MEA region's leading digital payments and fintech solutions provider, the company has pioneered payments innovation and challenged traditional forms of payment since its establishment.

Founded in 1984 by an alliance of over 50 MENA banks, AFS quickly became the biggest issuer of travellers' cheques in the region. As the global market shifted to cards, AFS invested in state-of-the-art card processing solutions, pioneering the outsourcing of credit and debit card processing, and becoming the region's largest credit card processor and the first processor to be certified on key global standards. Years later, anticipating the global shift to frictionless and cashless payments, AFS launched the fintech conversation, becoming a founding partner of Bahrain FinTech Bay (the largest dedicated fintech hub in the region). The company also hosted the first MEA Fintech Forum which is, today, the region's leading fintech experience platform, with insights on payments trends, and innovative services which will disrupt, enhance, innovate, and modernise tomorrow's businesses and day-to-day lives. Beyond this, AFS invested in fintech and led the way in the mobile wallet and merchant acquiring payments acceptance space. 

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"The global payments revolution is driven by customer convenience"

Driven by its customer focus and a commitment to delivering simpler, more secure and convenient payment experiences, AFS exists to empower businesses and individuals by exploring and investing in superior technologies that help shape the future of financial experiences and how they are conducted: anytime, anywhere and anyhow.

Customer convenience was at the forefront when AFS launched its digital wallet solutions and merchant acquiring business. Launching bwallet in Bahrain and efloos in Oman, AFS injected first-of-their-kind, agile, scalable, feature-rich wallet platforms into financial ecosystems. The company also rolled out Bahrain's first digital payroll solution 'Al Rateb' in support of banking the unbanked community. 

Anticipating a customer shift to digital payments, in 2019, AFS released the first Android-based NFC point of sale (PoS) terminals in Bahrain, through its merchant acquiring services. This revolutionised the business of payments and helped develop the region's future financial landscape. The company rolled out its market-leading payments acceptance technology in Oman and Bahrain. AFS' portable Android PoS devices give merchants and customers access to state-of-the-art tools for payment that can easily integrate with merchant's existing platforms. These all-in-one payment solutions support international and domestic payment schemes and fintech payment options including contactless cards, NFC, QR, biometric, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and mobile wallets. 

Their introduction in the market proved highly successful as the Covid-19 pandemic significantly accelerated the shift towards digital payments. Leveraging its expertise to deliver the solutions of choice for businesses and consumers, AFS's merchant acquiring business, which currently has over 35 per cent market share in Bahrain, has paved the way for multiple acceptance across online, in-person, and digital contactless transactions. 

Last year, AFS was the first acquirer in Bahrain to introduce local transaction tokenisation on PoS and was the first in Bahrain to accept contactless cards in compliance with the Central Bank mandate on expenditure limits on contactless transactions. Tapping into further opportunities that the pandemic delivered, AFS' eCommerce and eInvoicing acquiring products were launched just as online payments took off that year. Such moves reflected the company's agility and supported the market with merchant innovation solutions that answered to changing customer expectations and behaviours.

"The future of payments will be defined by partnerships in innovation"

Working hand-in-hand with partners and key industry stakeholders to support consumers, merchants, SMEs, financial institutions, and, of course, the banking sector in this new era, AFS delivers value to customers across the board through strategic partnerships. The company has delivered several firsts in the market, while actively supporting Bahrain's growing digital economy and the government's vision of a cashless digital society.

In 2018, AFS introduced bwallet to the region - the first digital mobile wallet in Bahrain to facilitate peer-to-peer and seamless, cashless transactions. This was the outcome of a strategic partnership with Batelco, Bahrain's leading digital services provider. Today, the award-winning digital mobile wallet and payment solution has revolutionised the way people transact, enhancing customer experiences through innovative ways to pay and transfer money.

In 2019, AFS partnered with Al Salam Bank-Bahrain, the pioneering Shari'a-compliant bank in the Kingdom, to roll out the country's first digital payroll solution, Al Rateb, for the unbanked community. This was in line with a government decree on wage protection and AFS responded to it quickly with a tailored, solution of choice to support businesses and individuals. An innovative, convenient, and simple wage protection system, Al Rateb enables employers, regardless of their workforce size, to pay wages digitally to their employees who do not have a bank account. The Al Rateb wage protection solution was the first of its kind solution serving unbanked blue-collar workers with tailored banking services, secure access to wages, cash withdrawals and remittance solutions that all meet and exceed all their requirements.

Through keen assessment of businesses' needs in the market, AFS delivers solutions that are relevant and future-proof. Its adoption of fintech services extends beyond consumers - providing digital payment services to SMEs and supporting their business with solutions that enable greater business agility and flexibility. This is a crucial direction for the company. As a key player in the payments ecosystem, AFS partnered with stc Bahrain, a world-class digital enabler, to rollout the all-in-one fully integrated stc Tajer PoS solution for retail businesses and SMEs. Powered by AFS, the PoS solution provides the flexibility to process payments, print receipts, accept online orders, manage point of sale application, delivery, and e-wallets, all while lowering infrastructure investments and minimising human error seamlessly. This initiative is in line with AFS' ongoing commitment to support and uplift the SME sector with innovative digital solutions that transform the way businesses conduct their operations, making it easier to focus on reaching their goals. 

"We disrupt financial ecosystems by embedding our innovation in them."

As a company focused on perpetual evolution towards a digitally-driven future, AFS is committed to enabling further technological innovation in the payments and fintech space, to deliver better, faster, more flexible, and efficient solutions to its customers. The company's groundbreaking fintech offering is constantly evolving to develop future-proof products and services that attract customers across the board by satisfying their payments needs. Its merchant acquiring presence has raised the standard of payments acceptance and embedded smart payments solutions in the market. As the region's payments partner of choice, AFS will do even more to transform the payments landscape and equip clients with the smart tools and solutions that cater to their evolving needs.

In a digital-first landscape, AFS solutions will support all players in the payments ecosystem to match customer needs. AFS will deliver intuitive payments experiences and help to propel the fintech and digital acceleration across the region, delivering faster, seamless payments experiences, while giving customers more choices, better services, and frictionless commerce.

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