‘When you don’t have a bank account… you don’t have freedom,’ ‎says CEO of UAE’s first fully digital bank - British Herald
November 27, 2021
Middle East

‘When you don’t have a bank account… you don’t have freedom,’ ‎says CEO of UAE’s first fully digital bank

DUBAI – Bringing financial services to people left behind by traditional banks and exploring new ways of making streaming services more interactive were among the ideas explored at the inaugural Asian Business Leadership Forum (ABLF) Talks series at Expo 2020 Dubai today (25 October).

The event brought together tech leaders, educationalists and entrepreneurs, including Olivier Crespin, CEO and Co-Founder of Zand UAE, and Maaz Sheikh, CEO and Co-Founder of STARZPLAY, the MENA region’s leading video streaming service.

The event reflected Expo 2020’s subthemes, exploring using financial capital as a resource to support growth and the importance of information technology in transforming people’s lives.

Launching later this year, Zand UAE is set to become the first fully independent digital bank in both the retail and corporate services areas in the UAE, and at the forefront of promoting financial inclusivity.

Olivier Crespin said: “The aim of digital banking is financial inclusion. There are 1.7 billion people around the world that don’t have bank accounts. Obviously when you don’t have access to a bank account, you don’t have any independence and you don’t have freedom. You cannot do what you want to do. You can’t get a loan or grow a business.

“We can give them access to the best financial product because we can identify what is really relevant to them through analytics and at the same time provide them peace of mind because we are a bank and regulated, and they can trust the system.

“It has to be easy; it has to be simple … you don’t need to have a PhD to understand how a bank account works … We would like people to do banking without realising is it is banking.”

Maaz Sheikh said that while the COVID-19 pandemic had seen a massive boost in audience reach for streaming services, those numbers have now levelled off, prompting his company to focus on different ways of meeting its customers’ needs.

Maaz Sheikh said: “When you’re watching something like the recent Lebanon-UAE football match you are watching content, but it’s passive, you cannot interact. So we’ve been experimenting with technologies that would allow viewers to leave comments and have interactions with other fans. Whether it’s a post about a certain game that’s coming up, or a show that we’ve launched, people will interact with each other. Hopefully we can build social media into our platform.”

Sheikh said that being part of Expo 2020 is a great opportunity for companies such as STARZPLAY: “I think Expo has a lot to offer us as entrepreneurs and as a young company. It is an inspiration for me personally and for my company, to see what has been achieved here to see history being made and learning from it.”

Established in 2007, the ABLF is held under the patronage of His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner General of Expo 2020 Dubai, and is recognised by the UAE Federal Government through a long-term partnership with the UAE Ministry of Economy.

ABLF Talks will take place monthly during Expo 2020, bringing together more than 100 thought-leaders for in-person and virtual conversations on urgent socio-economic issues.

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