The seventh edition of Meftec, the financial technology event for emerging markets, opened Monday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec).
The decision to relocate the event that had been taking place in Bahrain for the past six years to Abu Dhabi was made after international participants raised concerns over the recent political developments in Bahrain and the ensuing unfavourable travel advisories, a statement published by the organisers said.
However, despite the change in venue, one thing the exhibitors agree on is the huge potential that the GCC market has for their businesses.
"This region is quite important to us," said N. Ganapathy Subramaniam, President of TCS Financial Solutions, which delivers IT services and solutions to financial institutions around the world. "There are a lot of investments happening in this region, so a lot of financial products are required and a lot more financial institutions are doing business here."
Banks, for example, are trying to become not only strong at the domestic level, but at the regional level as well, he said. "They are also looking at expanding to India and countries in the Far East."
Because of this potential, TCS Financial Solutions has started to develop products supporting conventional and Islamic banking products through the same software specially for this region.
Today, almost 23 per cent of the company's product business revenue comes from the Middle East and the GCC, Subramaniam said. In 2009 and 2010, the company's sales in the region grew 43 per cent, he added. "The potential of business is increasing with the market becoming a lot more integrated."
One thing banks are worried about today, he said, is the "heterogeneity of their client base and their employee base". He said the requirements of people above the age of 45 are very different from the 25-year age segment, that is the bank's future clients. "While the first group is more than happy to go to your branch, the second group probably doesn't want to see you. They probably want to interact using the social media."
So it's very important to have systems that satisfy the heterogeneity of the client base.
Tony Achkar, General Manager of Sybase Products Middle East, which offers products to almost 70 banks, predominantly Islamic, said that the banking sector is today looking for analytics, mobile commerce and mobile banking which are areas of the the company's focus.
He said banks are moving towards providing various channels for their clients such as the use of devices. "Definitely it's a trend in the market that is only going to evolve," he said.
Banks are also looking to analyse their customer base to generate more business, he added. "The data is gathered in an area where I can do the smart analytics to be able to see who is a good prospect for a certain loan, who are my best customers, which is the best operating branch, what is the best ATM location etc," he said.
Olivier Ueberfeldt, sales manager for the GCC and Mena region at ADS Securities based in Abu Dhabi, which offers technology solutions for online trading, said that there's definitely a gap between Europe, Asia, the United States and the Middle East when it comes to online services provided by banks. "If you look at Europe for example, most of the banks offer fantastic internet service, but also trading platforms," he said. "In the Middle East there's definitely a gap."
"For the younger generation that wants to do a lot of business via the bank portals there is a big gap and this is where we come in to help," he said.