Meftech 2017: Manufacturing Financial Services written by Sashreka Pillay
My debut into Abu Dhabi was not glamourous. The journey there started from Dubai and was punctured by a rushed change of cabs somewhere around 4:00 a.m. – my taxi driver didn’t know where my hotel was but found someone who did. Turns out the new driver was just as confused as the first and we set off to find it together, communication a broken mosaic of at least three languages. Lovely.
Turns out that Meftech 2017 felt a bit like that as well. The conference had an ebb and flow of attendees, with the second day more ebb than flow. Having said that, the content available on fintech and its application in the region was faultless.
Of the fintech glitterati Jim Marous, Chris Skinner and J.P. Nichols shared their ever-invaluable knowledge on the industry and the region. Speakers from FaceBook, Gartner and other heavy-weight firms (like Matchi, wink) commanded the main stage. Small break away conversations littered the hall – it definitely had an open atmosphere feel. Through conversations, talks and of course content generated from our own Matchi fintech stream, here are a few top of mind themes we took away from the region:
- What is life without a bit of healthy competition? Turns out that countries in the region are all keen to hold the title “Most attractive for fintech firms.” There are a bevy of funds, sandboxes and other supporting structures looking to accommodate the growth of fintech. Dubai seems like a natural choice but Bahrain is currently pursuing an aggressive strategy for the title, making it a worthy adversary. Some conference rumours suggest that fintech firms may be attracted by the level of investment available quite easily in Dubai but certain regulations (particularly around IP) are holding them back. Fact or Fiction?
- It’s open season for Blockchain. The Dubai government has made the bold move of committing to move all its transactions to blockchain by 2020. This fostered a particular interest in the technology and its applications at the conference. Reports state that Dubai has ear-marked IBM for their citywide proof of concept project. Even so this did not dampen the interest in understanding the full competitor landscape of firms supplying the technology. Happy hunting.
- Fintech firm to fintech firm: Why can’t we be friends? A natural progression of the market is that fintech firms are starting to collaborate more openly with each other to provide a formidable offering to financial institutions. Matchi CEO, David Milligan, held an open discussion about this at Meftech with some interesting results: fintech understand that they can’t provide it all. They also understand that it’s difficult, and painful, for a bank to source multiple providers. Therefore, fintech firms are willing to carry the reputational risk of recommending preferred partners to financial institutions. This topic was so enthusiastic, we’re putting together a feature article about it with a selection of Matchi firms who attended. Make sure you read it.
- A moment of corporate pride. Matchi brought out 10 firms to demo and participate in our Meftech fintech stream. It was clear that these firms were among the strongest exhibiting at the conference. They were also the most enthusiastic. You can read more about the Matchi fintech superstars who attended here.
There were many good takeaways from a conference in a fascinating region. The area seems to be approaching fintech with the same perspective as they have with their infrastructure - there is a certain manufactured-awe quality to the process. I will be very interested to understand how the market grows from here.