Albania can expect to welcome its first digitalized Murabahah platform in less than three months, Amel Kovacevic, CEO of United Bank of Albania (UBA), told IFN, the sister publication of IFN Fintech.
UBAshpejt, a fintech project under UBA, is in its final implementation phase, in preparation for its official launch in June 2022. The platform will initially focus on offering microfinance through its Murabahah digital platform, and will eventually expand to include property purchases and other more complex financing needs.
UBA is leveraging on its strategic partnerships with premium retailers to enable instant purchasing for the bank’s customers through approved financings. Later, as UBAshpejt diversifies its offerings, UBA will also lean into its partnerships, including those with several Albanian real estate agencies.
The platform was built around UBA’s retail banking experience and a technological infrastructure developed by information technology (IT) company Facilization and software company Creatio.
“UBAshpejt became possible thanks to the great digital progress Albania has made in recent years. Albanian legislation and relevant institutions such as the Central Bank of Albania, (government portal) e-Albania and (IT company) Aleat enabled us to perform the application, authentication, credit scoring, financing approval, e-contracting and transfer of funds instantly, creating [a] superb customer experience.
“Digital and financial security is at a maximum level since we have relied on official Albanian partners for data gathering,” Amel explained.
The platform, according to Amel, is not only the first fintech in Albania in this segment, but also the first-ever Islamic fintech in Southeast Europe. “There are, in the market of Southeast Europe, various attempts to explore [the] given business case but UBAshpejt will be the first to provide a fully digital experience of the given workflow.”
UBA was founded in 1994, originally known as the Arab-Albanian Islamic Bank, and is majority-owned by Eurosig, an Albanian insurance operator. The IsDB is also a shareholder of the bank, the only Islamic one in the country, where 58.8% of the total population is Muslim.
“We face strong competition from the European banking giants. However, we believe that there is a sustainable client base in Albania that recognizes our business approach and quality of services. Even though Albania has not yet adopted an Islamic banking legislation, we do have an understanding and active support from the regulator and financial authorities (for Islamic finance),” Amel said.