By Gordon Platt
One key focus of the Sibos gathering in Dubai will be emerging payments and transaction banking opportunities in the fast-growing Middle East region, and in emerging markets more generally.
The use of social media and mobile services is helping bankers to reach the unbanked masses and family-owned businesses in the region. In countries such as Egypt and Iraq, only 10% of the adult population has an account at a formal financial institution. Small-value, cross-border payments are big business in a region that depends so largely on foreign workers.
Of course, the main focus will be on serving the financial needs of corporations. Nadya Talhouni, senior vice president, head of cash management and trade finance at Arab Bank, believes that holding Sibos 2013 in Dubai will allow the region to showcase MENA-based innovation and its regional banks. “Although international banks have historically had an edge in terms of treasury and cash management innovation, MENA banks over the years have strengthened their position in providing specialized solutions that meet the local and regional needs.”
Corporations in the region have also become more sophisticated, requiring a suite of products and services specific to the local market, Talhouni says. “As they expand into multiple jurisdictions, they also require seamless integration across borders in a region that is divergent at the micro level,” she says.
“Mobility and speed are critical and we believe that this is the primary focus of banks’ offerings, along with quality of service,” Talhouni says. “Focusing on these criteria will provide the MENA corporate market with the empowerment needed to grow further.”
David Watson, global head of client access products, Global Transaction Banking, at Deutsche Bank, says they are focused on increasing offerings via the bank’s Autobahn App Market, the first ‘App-based’ electronic client offering in the financial services industry. “Clients benefit from new and continually evolving Apps, as we partner with them to create new solutions and interfaces without adding unneeded complexity to their key treasury operations.” The result of client-driven development is the end of multiple logins, and the provision of consistent access and structure of services, Watson says.
“Clients are operating in an environment of perpetual change,” he says. “The successful management of internal and market data allows clients to foresee and react to organization, market and regulatory changes, turning risk into opportunity.”
Jiten Arora, global head of sales, Transaction Banking, Standard Chartered, says economic disruption provides opportunities as well as challenges, depending on how corporates respond to them. “Good working capital management is crucial,” Arora adds, noting that sessions at Sibos in the corporate forum will address this subject and should be relevant. “At the same time, the dynamics of new trade flows should be a very useful session to tune in on. The bank payment obligation (BPO) is expected to be one of the hot topics, especially considering the ICC launched URBPO earlier this year. South-South trade should also attract attention, with the trade volume between Africa and other emerging markets expected to grow rapidly.”