Opportunities for Banks in the Evolving Middle East Payments Landscape


The Middle East is experiencing a significant shift in its payments landscape, with digital adoption accelerating at an impressive pace. According to a McKinsey survey, consumer digital payment transactions in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) grew by more than 9 percent annually between 2014 and 2019, outpacing Europe's average annual growth of 4 to 5 percent. As the region embraces digital payments, new opportunities and challenges arise for banks, tech players, telecom companies, fintechs, and other stakeholders. This blog post will explore the future of the Middle East's rapidly evolving payment landscape.

Evolving Landscape of Middle East Payments

Understanding the progressing landscape of the Middle Eastern financial sector requires a closer look at the recent trends and developments in payment systems. These changes are crucial in mapping out the future trajectory of this dynamic market. Here are the key trends to consider:

  1. Digital adoption is accelerating: Over the next five years, expect strong growth in noncash payments.
  2. Nonbanks are poised to capture market share: The Middle East payments market has expanded to include fintechs, tech companies, telecom companies, and incumbent banks.
  3. A connected cross-border ecosystem is emerging: Initiatives like Project Aber, the Buna payment platform, and the AFAQ system are being launched to support cross-border transactions.
  4. Industry consolidation is expected: Most payment practitioners predict some industry consolidation in the next five years.
  5. Opportunities for banks and nonbank players: Banks need to reduce costs and find new ways to create value from payments, while nonbank players can leverage their agility and innovation to capture market share.
  6. Open banking and personalized financial services: Open banking regulations are being introduced in the region, which can transform the future of banking and fintech by providing personalized financial services.
  7. Security and trust in digital payments: As digital payment adoption increases, ensuring security and confidence in payment solutions is crucial for consumer adoption.
  8. Emerging payment methods: Cryptocurrencies, blockchain-based solutions, and installment-based solutions like Buy Now Pay Later are gaining traction in the region.

Opportunities for Banks

The rapidly evolving financial sector presents banks with numerous opportunities for innovation and growth. These opportunities can be harnessed through various strategies, making the banking sector more dynamic and customer-centric.

  1. Launching New Products: Banks can introduce e-wallets and similar innovative products, expanding their service portfolio and meeting the evolving needs of tech-savvy customers.
  2. Building Ecosystems: Developing an integrated ecosystem by partnering with prominent players or conglomerates can enhance the range and quality of banking services.
  3. Separating Payments Business: Carving out the payments segment to form a separate entity enables banks to operate with the agility of a fintech, enhancing competitiveness in this domain.
  4. Embracing Digital Transformation: Banks can streamline operations, boost security, and elevate customer experiences by integrating digital technologies into their core processes.
  5. Leveraging Customer Data: Utilizing data analytics, banks can gain insightful knowledge, personalize services, and refine decision-making processes to serve their customers better.
  6. Adopting Innovative Technologies: Integrating cutting-edge technologies like blockchain, cloud computing, AI, machine learning, big data, biometrics, RPA (Robotic Process Automation), and mobile/embedded devices can significantly improve operational efficiency and service quality.

Through these strategies, banks can adapt to the changing financial landscape and play a pivotal role in shaping the future of banking.

The Role of Intellectual Property Strategy

Navigating the complex landscape of the modern financial industry, the importance of a well-defined intellectual property (IP) strategy becomes increasingly evident. The role of IP strategy for the banking system or financial sector is to address the challenges of an increasingly technology-driven sector. This role includes mitigating potential exclusion from critical markets and growth opportunities, limiting costs from third-party offensive actions, and keeping future business options open. Additionally, the IP strategy aims to strengthen productivity advantages, profit margins, and market shares and reduce vendor-related costs where possible. It also involves integrating business, innovation, and IP strategy to ensure effective business-driven IP management.

Additionally, innovation-driven businesses greatly benefit from a reliable partner managing their IP strategy. This partnership is crucial for several reasons:

1.       Strategic Planning Expertise: They provide expert knowledge in aligning IP assets with business goals, ensuring compliance with diverse legal frameworks.

2.       Risk Management: This involves identifying potential legal disputes and mitigating risks related to IP.

3.       IP Portfolio Development: A reliable partner is essential in building and maintaining a solid IP portfolio, which is critical for business growth.

4.       Market Insight and Competitive Analysis: They offer valuable insights into market trends and competitor strategies, enhancing the company's market position.

5.       Monetization Strategies: Assistance in monetizing IP through licensing and other avenues adds a significant revenue stream.

6.       Legal Support and Litigation: Their expertise is crucial in legal support, particularly in IP litigation scenarios.

7.       Adapting to Changes: Keeping the IP strategy relevant to the evolving market and legal changes is another critical role.

8.       Internal Education and Awareness: They play a vital role in educating the team about the importance of IP and ensuring the integrity of the company’s IP strategy.

This comprehensive approach underscores the importance of a reliable IP partner in leveraging and protecting a company's intellectual assets.

Case Studies of Successful Partnerships

Worldwide banks increasingly use strategic partnerships to drive innovation and enhance their intellectual property. This collaborative trend, encompassing fintech startups, technology giants, and other financial institutions, reshapes the banking landscape. Let’s explore some notable examples of these partnerships.

  1. Hellenic Bank’s Transformation through Fintech Partnerships Hellenic Bank has leveraged partnerships with fintech start-ups to innovate rapidly. The bank has transformed from a traditional institution into a leader in banking innovation​​​​by adopting an API-first approach in open banking. Read more about how start-up scouting works here.
  2. Rabobank and Signicat: Digitizing Customer Onboarding To enhance digital identity services, Rabobank collaborated with Norwegian FinTech Signicat. This partnership has resulted in a more efficient, customer-friendly onboarding process​​.
  3. Modernizing Contact Centers: A U.S. Bank Partner with Cognizant A notable U.S. financial services provider worked with Cognizant to revamp its outdated contact center, integrating AWS Connect to enhance customer experience across its branches​​​​​​​​.
  4. Big Banks Embrace Fintech Collaborations Major banks have recognized the value of partnering with fintech companies:
    • JPMorgan Chase with OnDeck for small business lending.
    • Bank of America with Betterment is a robo-advisor.
    • Goldman Sachs acquired Clarity Money.
    • Citibank’s partnership with PayPal.
    • Capital One acquired Level Money.
    • Wells Fargo’s integration of Intuit’s tools like QuickBooks and Mint​​.

These examples highlight a crucial trend: in the digital age, collaboration is critical to innovation in the banking sector. Banks are enhancing their technological capabilities through these partnerships and setting new customer service and operational efficiency standards. As this trend continues, we can expect to see more dynamic collaborations shaping the future of banking.

Future Trends and Predictions

As we discovered the growing landscape of the financial sector, it's important to highlight that the future trends and predictions in the banking system, particularly in the Middle East, include a massive digital transition driven by tech-savvy consumers and fast-developing technology hubs. Banking revenue in the Middle East could reach more than USD 359 billion by 2025, with retail and corporate banking experiencing significant growth. Banks focus on co-creating and building innovative business models to offer pioneering solutions and improve the digital banking experience for customers. Open banking and API enhancements are also gaining momentum. Conventional and Islamic banks are aggressively investing in building digital capabilities to cater to a new generation of tech-savvy customers.


The rapidly evolving Middle East payment landscape offers immense opportunities for banks, fintechs, and other stakeholders. Embracing digital transformation, developing innovative solutions, and forming strategic partnerships are crucial to capitalizing on these changes. As experts in this field, we are here to guide and collaborate with you in navigating these exciting developments. We invite you to contact us to explore how we can leverage these opportunities and drive the future of banking in the Middle East. Let's connect and transform the future together.

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Hanna Buklieieva
Marketing Coordinator IP and R&D Solutions Posts

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