Independent reports by the Gulf News and Khaleej Times point to two separate yet interrelated phenomena of the banking industry under discussion at the 5th GCC Banking Conference: the use of online and mobile banking services, and the reappraisal of domestic banking policy. At issue is the future of banking in member states of the AGCC – more precisely how new technologies should be used to their advantage, and, how to create a more open and competitive market for the industry.
”Position yourselves to the best advantage”
The combination of online and mobile technologies has led to a revolution in the way people interact in spheres of business as well as the growth of personal wealth. Finding solutions to both technologies is essential for maintaining and increasing the value to both present and potential customers, indicated Farooq Hasan of Comtrust to Gulf News.
Pointing to a younger, more technologically inclined generation, and as a result of the growth of online transactions conducted from the comforts of home, members of the Gulf region banking and telecommunications industries are calling for greater cooperation. Rather than ‘fear’ online/mobile business and banking, the industry commentators are calling for solutions to be developed that will incorporate those technologies into the mainstream of the banking industry.
With some 1.1 million mobile phone users in the UAE, an official from the Dubai Internet City was quoted stating that the regional industry is striving to build upon the ideals of “the infrastructure of Singapore with the financial muscle of Wall Street, the innovation and energy of Silicon Valley and the talent of India.”
Domestic banking policies, dubbed ‘protectionist’ and ‘discouraging’, are said to be in need of fundamental changes. With the upcoming accession to the WTO in 2005, a large number of banks will suffer from the lack of cooperation, competitiveness, and services offered.
Central Bank ‘policing’ will only cause further harm by accentuating poor performances, not opening markets to regional competitors and broadening services to include online banking. The difficulty associated with expansion into neighboring markets and other countries is cause for concern. Thus, the key term is ‘liberalization’, something of a foreign concept in the regional banking industry – much of which has been brought about by the growth of online services.
Regardless of the current situation in the industry, the conference has been seen as a forum to address these issues and bring about an eventual improvement in regional banking conditions. –(Albawaba-MEBG)
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