x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Stampede to tap into mobile technology

Banks are rushing to tap into wealth being created by small-business lending through developing mobile technology for entrepreneurs.

Whether they are ambitious Mark Zuckerberg-wannabes or grizzled businessmen in Dubai's souqs, banks are rushing to tap into wealth being created by small-business lending through developing mobile technology for entrepreneurs.

A boom in numbers of small and medium enterprises is causing banks to sit up and take notice, says Julien Faye, the head of financial services at Bain & Company.

"The new money, at least in the region, more and more is coming to young people, contrary to what you'd think," he said. "Technology is even more important if you want to get to the new money."

Small businesses are regarded as the engine of economic growth, and banks have sought to tap into this rapidly developing market as the Government provides more financing and regulatory support for entrepreneurs in the Emirates.

Bain & Company is advising banks to develop software targeting small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Business owners are increasingly seeking ways to manage their company's dealings from the same website or app that they organise their personal finances, says Mr Faye.

Because of the low development costs of mobile apps, even smaller lenders were able to capitalise on opportunities in this sector, he adds. Providing online services for tech-savvy entrepreneurs is a priority for lenders to this sector, says Hameed Noor Mohamed, the head of SME lending at Mashreq.

However, he says the bank lends to many older businessmen who have been serial entrepreneurs throughout their careers.

"For the young Turks under 30, it's no problem," he says. "But it'd be unfair to say it's all about entrepreneurs and that everyone's tech savvy."

Converting these customers to internet and mobile banking is becoming an increasing focus, says Mr Mohamed.

"I have a lot of customers who sit out in the souq," he adds. "We have a dedicated team who show them how to do it … it's the best way we can deliver the bank to the customer."

ghunter@thenational.ae