Open banking is one of the top fintech trends to have swept the Middle East. The opportunity for open banking in the Middle East is in integrating financial services with technology in a region that boasts some of the highest smartphone and internet penetration rates in the world, but is still home to a financial services landscape largely ruled by incumbents.
Open banking in the Middle East has taken off amidst a proactive regulatory environment, and a robustly growing payments sector.
On the one hand, regulators in Bahrain, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman are all cognisant of the opportunities in open banking. While Bahrain launched its Open Banking Framework in 2020, Saudi Arabia plans to go live with open banking by the first half of next year. The Dubai Financial Services Authority started providing an open banking licence in 2020 as well, while Oman has an Open Banking API Strategy in the pipeline.
Meanwhile, as paytech gains a foothold in the Middle East, 80% of payments practitioners in the Middle East expect to see open banking lead to a separation between savings accounts and payments capabilities. Further, personal financial management with account aggregation, and APIs for KYC, have emerged as some of the most popular use cases of open banking infrastructure.
Amidst this burgeoning interest in open banking in the Middle East, here are four open banking startups that have come to the fore.
Open banking startups in the Middle East
Headquarters: San Francisco, California
Founders: Mohammed Aziz, Ahmed Agour and Hesham Ghandour
Dapi is a San Francisco-headquartered company with operations in the UAE. In the UAE, the company has a presence in Abu Dhabi. It provides a real time banking API that allows companies to accept bank transfer payments within any application instantly. Its two products are a payment API for wire payments, and a data API for access to customer financial data.
In March this year, Dapi kickstarted its Latin America expansion by launching permission-based bank payment initiation and account data aggregation services in Mexico.
Headquarters: Dubai, UAE
Founders: Abdulla Almoayed
Tarabut Gateway has developed a universal banking API solution for banks and fintech companies to provide personalised financial services. The startup, which has roots in Bahrain, has built its open banking platform based on a public facing API, and offers services such as third party onboarding, regulatory reporting and consent management.
Headquarters: Manama, Bahrain
Founders: Ashar Nazim
Spire Tech provides open banking solutions to banks and financial services organisations in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. In September this year, the company launched its open banking platform after graduating from Bahrain’s regulatory sandbox, a company spokesperson confirmed with Fintech News. The pilot took place in partnership with Canadian fintech firm Salt Edge and banking partners such as KFH Bahrain.
Spire is a subsidiary of Aion Digital, a Bahrain-based digital banking firm. Aion Digital, in turn, is a brand managed by Waqfe, a Bahraini B2B2C digital fintech solutions platform.
Headquarters: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Founders: Hisham Al-Falih, Aditya Sarkar and Ashu Gupta
Lean Technologies provides open banking offerings that include a data API for real time access to user bank account information, and a payments API for bank-to-bank transfers. Use cases of the company’s solutions include digital accounting, robo-advisory, personal finance, P2P lending and buy now pay later solutions.
The company had last raised a US$3.5 million seed funding round in July 2020, led by RAED Ventures (Crunchbase). The round also saw participation from Shorooq Partners, Outliers VC, Global Founders Capital, Global Ventures and angel investors.