Sunday 26, November 2017 by Jessica Combes

Finance leaders explore aspects of disruptive forces at the Middle East Banking Forum 2017

 

Over 500 banking and finance leaders, experts and C-level executives from the country and wider region attended the fifth Middle East Banking Forum.

Held under the theme of “Harnessing the Forces of Global Disruption” in St.Regis Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, the Middle East Banking Forum 2017 is considered one of the largest banking forums in the region. This year’s edition explored the challenges and opportunities posed by a range of disruptive forces in the region’s banking sector.

Speakers at the event tackled revolutionary technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and fintechs which are disrupting almost all industries and sectors including the banking sector. Debates also examined the sector’s preparedness to face the disruption and explored the challenges and opportunities it offers. Global and regional banking and technology leaders also stressed upon the need for leaders to prepare themselves to reinvent or reshape their business to stay ahead of the transformation.

HE Mubarak Rashed Khamis Al Mansoori, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE, marked the start of the forum, which offered an insightful experience for delegates through a series of thoughtful presentations, lively panel debates and exclusive on-stage interviews.

Al Mansoori joined HE AbdulAziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of UAE Banks Federation; Jassim Al Bastaki, Secretary General, Emirati Entrepreneurs Association; and Pier Luigi Gilibert, Chief Executive, European Investment Fund, in a distinguished panel to discuss major financing challenges faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UAE and explored ways in which banks can catalyse the growth of the organisations at the event.

“I am proud to be surrounded by more than 500 banking and finance experts and leaders from the region to collectively discuss variety of topics and common issues relevant to the regional banking eco-system. We are here today to address the challenges and opportunities posed by a range of disruptive forces and, at the same time, to highlight how we can make the most out of them. Some of the challenges that we are seeing currently include the adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data analytics, rising cyber-attacks, constantly evolving regulation as well as difficulties in financing SMEs in the UAE. Owing to its potential to become an indispensable part of banking models, banks are now increasingly applying Artificial Intelligence in their frameworks. Indeed, this forum complements the recently announced UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, which advocates embracing the technology by the country’s financial institutions,” said Al Ghurair.

Al Ghurair added that the UBF is on the top of all of these challenges and that its robust cooperation with the Central Bank helps member banks to look deeply into these challenges and find the best ways to benefit from them.

The forum emphasised that digitalisation, demanding customers, competition from unexpected quarters, cyberattacks and constantly evolving regulatory environment are the powerful forces that are transforming the banking business. Banks that fail to adapt quickly to these trends will be left behind, or perhaps even fail. But those that take change into consideration by rewriting their strategies and implementing new operating models will open up a whole new world of opportunities.

“This forum goes one step further to address the recent challenges of technological advances. It expands by considering multiple technological advances that the banking industry is subjected to. As innovative advances by their very nature are difficult to anticipate, the key is to ensure that the institutions involved and the oversight regulators have the capacity and ability to adjust effectively and in timely manner to capitalise on the benefits and contain potential risks,” said Al Mansoori.

The stellar lineup of international speakers included the keynote speaker Dr. Andrei Kirilenko, Director of the Centre for Global Finance and Technology at the Imperial College Business School, who delivered an opening keynote presentation titled “Harnessing the forces of global disruption”; Ronit Ghose, Managing Director, Global Banks Sector Head, Citi Research, Citigroup’s presentation was titled “Robo-banker: advanced analytics and artificial intelligence”; and Royce Curtin, Managing Director, Group Intelligence, Barclays participated on the cybersecurity panel titled “Dangers in cyberspace–what would it take to bring down a bank?”.

High-profile speakers took the stage to address a variety of important topics ranging from dangers in cyberspace, enhancing the payment experience in a customer-centric environment to capturing the power of technology, with detailed reference to recent developments in the banking industry.

The conference attracted several renowned banking, finance and technology experts and influential decision and policy makers from the banking industry in the UAE and wider Middle East, differentiated itself with increased audience engagement and featured a voting system, which allowed the participants to air their views on various issues that were debated at the event.

The event concluded by closing remarks from Ralph Hamers, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Executive Board, ING Group, explaining how to capture the power of digital technology, and that with opportunies comes risks – escalating costs, the possibility of untested technology failing to deliver, security weaknesses. And the call for banks to be agile, partner with the right fintech firms and tread carefully.

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