ME forum explores opportunities posed by disruptive forces to banking sector

MUSCAT, NOV 25 – Over 500 banking and finance leaders, experts and C-level executives from the country and wider region attended the 5th Middle East Banking Forum, hosted by the UAE Banks Federation (UBF) in association with The Banker. Held on November 22, under the theme of “Harnessing the Forces of Global Disruption” in Abu Dhabi, the Middle East Banking Forum 2017, is considered one of the largest banking forums in the region. This year’s edition explored the challenges and opportunities posed by a range of disruptive forces in the region’s banking sector.
Speakers at the event tackled revolutionary technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and fintechs which are disrupting almost all industries and sectors including the banking sector. Debates also examined the sector’s preparedness to face the disruption and explored the challenges and opportunities it offers. Global and regional banking and technology leaders also stressed upon the need for leaders to prepare themselves to reinvent or reshape their business to stay ahead of the transformation.
AbdulAziz al Ghurair, Chairman of UAE Banks Federation, said: “We are here today to address the challenges and opportunities posed by a range of disruptive forces and, at the same time, to highlight how we can make the most out of them. Some of the challenges that we are seeing currently include the adoption of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data analytics, rising cyber-attacks, constantly evolving regulation as well as difficulties in financing SMEs in the UAE. Owing to its potential to become an indispensable part of banking models, banks are now increasingly applying Artificial Intelligence in their frameworks. Indeed, this forum complements the recently announced UAE Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, which advocates embracing the technology by the country’s financial institutions.”
The forum emphasised that digitalisation, demanding customers, competition from unexpected quarters, cyberattacks and constantly evolving regulatory environment are the powerful forces that are transforming the banking business. Banks that fail to adapt quickly to these trends will be left behind, or perhaps even fail. But those that take change into consideration by rewriting their strategies and implementing new operating models will open up a whole new world of opportunities.
The stellar lineup of international speakers included the keynote speaker Dr Andrei Kirilenko, Director of the Centre for Global Finance and Technology at the Imperial College Business School; who delivered an opening keynote presentation titled “Harnessing the forces of global disruption”; Ronit Ghose, Managing Director, Global Banks Sector Head, Citi Research, Citigroup, delivering a presentation titled “robo-banker: advanced analytics and artificial intelligence”; and Royce Curtin, Managing Director, Group Intelligence, Barclays sitting on the cybersecurity panel titled “Dangers in cyberspace — what would it take to bring down a bank?”.
High-profile speakers took the stage to address a variety of important topics ranging from dangers in cyberspace, enhancing the payment experience in a customer-centric environment to capturing the power of technology, with detailed reference to recent developments in the banking industry.