Gulf Tribune | 09 December 2019

Qatar Central Bank (QCB) Governor of Sheikh Abdulla bin Saoud al Thani, said the central bank in its capacity as the regulatory and supervisory authority for the financial sector, is fully aware of the importance of financial technology in the development of the banking and financial sector in the country.

In his speech at the opening session of the Euromoney Qatar Conference 2019, Sheikh Abdulla said the QCB is now preparing to announce the financial technology (fintech) strategy, in cooperation with financial institutions and financial technology companies, where the central bank will contribute to creating a modern regulatory environment that supports Innovation and market stability.

The QCB governor explained that the global financial sector is rapidly developing, supported by electronic innovations and systems, where the provision of financial services has become mainly dependent on technology, because of its great role in transforming the banking sector from its conventional channels to digital alternatives in banking. Preparations are under way to launch digital banks, or what is known as new banks, which provide banking services through mobile applications and others, he added. He pointed out that the future banking industry is also heading towards a new historical turning point, where the extent of banks’ ability to benefit from advanced technology is studied in order to employ them in financial services, for example artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology. These developments will extend to a wide range of financial services, he said.

Sheikh Abdulla stressed that the regulatory and supervisory bodies around the world need to quickly cope up with the new challenges in order to reduce regulatory gaps and maintain financial stability. He stated that due to the technical knowledge and flexibility that fintech companies enjoy, they have become a major competitor to the banking sector, and banks have also been quick to join this development, and have begun to invest heavily in technology with the aim of improving their operations and providing superior services to clients, which made technology more focused in the banking industry. He pointed out that the developments witnessed in the banking technology sector, and the desire of customers to use digital services, have redefined the concept of retail banking, noting in this regard that improving operational efficiency can only be through the adoption of new technologies, especially for banking services, including deposits, current accounts, credit cards, money transfers and others, with the aim of making them competitive.

Banks provide banking services by launching banking services platforms, where competition has increased, and the consumer has the option to choose between a set of products and services commensurate with quality and cost, and to overcome these challenges, the banking industry must adopt the latest technologies to provide excellent solutions aimed at customer service.
Sheikh Abdulla pointed out that the banking services technologies that rely on artificial intelligence, electronic cloud-based banking services and enhanced digital capabilities have become an essential element in banking processes, which calls for the development and direction of banking services in the future.

“The banks’ success in achieving the goals of complete digitization depends mainly on integration and cooperation with fintech companies, due to the innovative benefits that these companies enjoy, and at the same time, the banks have sufficient capital and diversified distribution networks, and it is expected that the banks will establish a more distinct system through cooperation with the fintech companies,” he stressed.

He touched on developments in the financial sector, most of which were the emergence of mobile banking, which allowed customers to deposit funds, conduct money transfers, monitor, oversee and distribute their profits.

“Most of the mobile banking services can now be executed at any time and any place. Among other major developments, the entry of large technology companies, such as Apple, Google, Amazon to name a few, in the financial landscape, as these companies have a large customer base, and can achieve significant gains in terms of efficiency and enhance financial inclusion.
Sheikh Abdulla stated that this development raises many concerns about privacy, competition and market monopoly, which may create threats that affect the financial system, pointing out that the International Monetary Fund has noted this in the recent G20 summit in Tokyo.

These developments in the financial landscape have forced the regulatory and supervisory authorities to rethink the regulation as well as supervision and oversight strategy, where, the opportunities and solutions offered by fintech and big technology companies may increase operating and cybersecurity risks, due to the interconnected operations with information technology.
The QCB governor stressed that the future of the banking sector regarding the use of data will combine high speed, great diversity, and a huge amount of data, which may raise concerns about protecting and managing that data, protecting privacy, confidentiality of transactions, and cyber security, therefore, regulatory and supervisory bodies need to acquire specialized skills to deal with massive technological innovation and growth in digital finance, and should also issue decisions and regulatory and supervisory instructions regarding financial technology and compliance requirements and monitor their implementation. The financial and banking sector and the investment sector are undergoing a major transformation with the interaction of advanced technology. New business models provided by fintech and technology companies have great potential to increase the efficiency of financial services, but at the same time, this will bring complications to the regulators, which may lead them to take balanced steps, in order to maintain financial stability, preserve the rights of depositors and shareholders, and encourage investment, he said.

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