Andre Achtstaetter Open Banking Forum Riyadh

Blog 4 mins reading time

Taking the leap to MENA Fintechs

Event recap

From recently setting up our new entity in Ireland, going international has been in our business plans for quite some time.

Over the last few months, we’ve attended as well as presented at several key industry events to explore the opportunities taking place across the open banking sector, from multi-million-pound acquisitions to the future direction of open finance.

While last month’s Money2020 in Las Vegas provided us with a pulse check on the fintech ecosystem and a glimpse to where the industry is headed – to embedded finance and ‘Everything’ as a service – the other side of the globe also offers huge opportunities for Fintechs.

Moreso, despite the global economy’s uncertainties, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) market is poised to grow steadily, and Fintech in this region is a rising star.

New events on our radar

This led us to put our feelers out towards the MENA region, and we decided it was a good time to attend the Open Banking Forum in Riyadh together with our partner Banfico, as well as to visit Seamless Middle East & North Africa.

For 23 years, the brightest and most innovative minds in e-commerce, payments, fintech, and retail have been converging at the Seamless summit. This year’s event definitely lived up to the hype by bringing together the entire banking and financial services industry to discuss the future of money and collaborate with the latest tech and services on the market. Provoking discussions included panels on cashless society, biometrics, cross-border e-commerce, mobile money, and much more.

Our Middle East trip included a keynote presentation by our Co-COO Andre Achtstaetter on the ‘Evolving Fintech Collaboration in the Open Banking Ecosystem’ at the Open Banking Forum.

In his speech, Andre focused on new business models and how to build successful value propositions through a fintech and banking ecosystem. Our team used the opportunity to connect with local banks and fintechs to understand their challenges and their plans for collaboration. An interesting approach, for example is a few Saudi Banks launching their own fintech for them to compete with their own bank as well other banks.

Other insights included the Kingdom of Saudia Arabia (KSA) acting as an ecosystem enabler using a central sandbox. It provides aligned incentives, it mandates things that must be in place but it leaves space for commercial gain. Plus there is a strong customer/user centric approach with priority use cases for private and business customers.

It was striking to hear that KSA has considered Open Banking as one of their key initiatives of the Fintech Strategy under their Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) of their Vision 2030. In a short space of 4 years, the Kingdom has seen a 14.7X growth in the number of fintechs in the region.

Regulators have undertaken a structured approach by carefully examining the already existing legislative frameworks for Open Banking in Europe, UK and other parts of the world. It was a tremendous moment at the Open Banking Forum when the Saudi Arabia Monitory Authority (SAMA) literally just announced the much-awaited Open Banking framework which includes legislation, regulatory guidelines and technical standard to be adhered to.

To ensure consistent, highest quality and secure open banking implementation in the Kingdom, SAMA is tracking the progress across all banks & fintechs in the region. According to the official documents from SAMA, the Open Banking Lab will be upgraded to conform to the Open Banking Framework by the end of November 2022. Banks and Account Information Service Provider (AISP) are expected to complete their development activities and be ready for certification no later than by the end of this year.

Exciting that our partner Banfico already offers a fully compliant Open Banking Solution as SaaS and on premise!


There are strong ambitions for the Saudi capital market to become a global leader. These ambitions are matched by the support from the government. The competition among open banking providers will be heating up among regional and homegrown FinTechs or global providers who are setting their Middle East presence.

The Middle East is a complex region and not the easiest place to operate, and if you are making the first steps toward expanding in the Middle East, experts say consider culture, building trust, and business cases. Even more, business is only viable with fixed operations in Riyadh.

adorsys has experienced tremendous momentum over the past years and we are excited to see what the next 5 years of Fintech in Saudi Arabia look like.

Congrats to the organizers of Seamless Middle East & Africa as well as of the Open Banking Forum in Riyadh!

Thank you for having us, and it was such a pleasure bouncing ideas and exchanging thoughts with all the new contacts we made.