Pocketing profit: GCC banks pay attention to digital wallets

The past month saw a string of banks in the Middle East tailoring payment solutions with new mobile wallets and enhanced digital services.

From Kuwait to the UAE and Oman, Islamic financial services providers have introduced new or revamped digital payment services to be in tune with the region’s gravitation toward a cashless society.

Kuwait Finance House (KFH), the UAE’s Mashreq Bank and Oman’s Bank Dhofar all rolled out their respective digital wallets, each leveraging on near field communication technology as well as enhanced security features, replacing traditional wallets with smartphones.

KFH became the first bank in the Middle East and Africa region to launch a mobile wallet (KFH Wallet) based on the Mastercard Digital Enablement Services, which replaces card numbers with a digital token unique to a mobile device, much like EMV technology. In addition, it has an additional layer of security: a PIN or fingerprint ID before completing a transaction.

The tokenization feature is also adopted by Mashreq’s MashreqPay, whereby the actual card number is converted into a random token number and the token number is stored in the wallet. This prevents hackers from skimming the card details to commit fraud. Mashreq, which extends Islamic services, was one of the earliest implementers of mobile contactless payment wallets: in 2014, it had introduced its Tap-n-Go sticker.

In Oman, Maisarah Islamic Banking Services’s parent, BankDhofar, introduced its mobile wallet allowing users to transact by registering one’s mobile number.

Its fellow peer Bank Sohar, on the other hand, implemented the Mobile Payment Clearing and Switching System allowing customers to also conduct fund transfers on the Bank Sohar mobile banking app using their phone numbers instead of their account numbers.

Over in Kuwait, Islamic bank Warba launched ‘Express Share’, enabling customers to send a request to have money transferred to their accounts by anyone who has their mobile phone number and an ATM card issued by any other bank.

The idea of the new service is to help the bank’s customers to collect money contributions of ‘Qatiyyah’, or shared payments, regarding social and family gatherings, events and activities from the people involved.

One of the largest Islamic banks in the UAE, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB), upgraded its mobile banking app to include new features allowing users to transfer money, make payments and manage their accounts more easily.

Notably, with the new app, customers are now able to conduct cardless cash withdrawals as well as send cash to others, including non-ADIB customers, either through its ATM network or mobile app. The new app also integrates an enhanced security feature: fingerprint identification.


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