How Technology Will Shape Iraq’s Banking and Financial Services

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How Technology Will Shape Iraq’s Banking and Financial Services

ئەم بابەتە بڵاو بکەرەوە:

Efforts are currently underway to enhance technology adoption and innovation within financial services. We’ll examine the current landscape and highlight the significance of technology in driving advancements, and explore the necessary steps and improvements required to accelerate progress, with a particular focus on the importance of security in the payment and banking sector.

Current Landscape

1. Mobile Money Companies: Mobile money companies in Iraq provide fully digital banking services, enabling users to conduct transactions and access financial services conveniently through their mobile devices. Nasswallet, ZainCash, and FastPay, offer convenient digital banking services. They provide features like digital merchant payments in-stores and online, government bill payments, salary disbursement, eVoucher purchases, and international money transfers. These services empower users to conduct transactions, pay bills, access funds, and send money securely through their mobile devices.

2. Digital Infrastructure:

Traditional banks in Iraq have recognised the importance of digitalisation and are investing in their digital infrastructure to provide customers with enhanced digital banking experiences and services.

First Iraq Bank (FIB) operates as a fully digital bank, leveraging advanced technologies and robust digital infrastructure to provide comprehensive banking services through digital channels such as opening bank accounts, sending money, and merchant payments.

Al-Taeef Bank which previously was an exchange house and turned into a bank, is heavily investing in its digital infrastructure to offer a seamless and efficient digital banking experience.

Adding to that, National bank of Iraq (NBI) has made millions of dollars of investment in its digital Infrastructure, modernising it is channels, ATM expansion, and digital channels for consumers. One of the main reasons behind this is the Capital Bank of Jordan, which is NBI’s major shareholder (61.85% share), offering significant support to NBI’s operations and offering experienced personnel and banking solutions while assuring adherence to international compliance and service standards. These investments reflect a commitment to meet the evolving needs of customers, enhance digital banking experiences, and pave the way for a more inclusive financial ecosystem in Iraq.

3. Partnerships:

Recent partnerships between banks, payment service providers, and fintech companies have emerged. Examples include Rafidain and Switch, Amwal and Ashur, and Areebla and Altaif.

Rafidain Bank and Switch, a leading electronic payment services company, have partnered to distribute Point-of-Sale (POS) devices throughout the country. This collaboration aims to expand the acceptance infrastructure and enable merchants, regardless of their size or location, to accept digital payments.

Another significant partnership in the market is between Amwal and Ashur Bank. As a result of this alliance, merchants can hold or create merchant bank accounts with Ashur Bank and gain access to POS machines. Furthermore, this partnership offers merchants the possibility of obtaining credit cards, enabling them to expand their business operations and provide greater convenience to their customers.

Additionally, Areeba, a prominent electronic payment solutions provider, has recently announced partnerships with Al-Taif Islamic Bank and Iraqi Noor Islamic Bank. Through these collaborations, Areeba aims to provide comprehensive electronic payment solutions, particularly for POS payments and online payment gateways, to the customers of these banks. These collaborations aim to leverage each entity’s strengths to deliver improved financial services.

Improvements Needed

1. Continued Investment in Digital Infrastructure: Payment service providers must continue investing in digital infrastructure to support seamless and secure digital banking experiences. This includes robust backend systems, efficient networks, and reliable connectivity to ensure uninterrupted services.

2. Embracing Fintech Solutions: Collaboration between traditional banks and fintech companies is essential for developing innovative digital banking solutions tailored to the needs of Iraqi citizens. Encouraging such partnerships can drive financial inclusion and offer convenient, user-friendly services.

3. Strengthening Cybersecurity Measures: Collaboration with the Central bank of Iraq as the regulatory, government, banking institutions, fintech companies, and other stakeholders is vital to establish a robust legal and regulatory framework for consumer data security and protection in the digital banking era. Key steps to be taken include:

a. Develop comprehensive data protection regulations: Governments and the Central Bank of Iraq should create specific regulations and guidelines that address data security, privacy, and consent requirements for financial institutions operating in the digital space.

b. Promote industry standards: Establishing industry-wide standards and best practices for data security, such as PCI-DSS and ISO 27001, is essential to ensure consistency and strengthen consumer trust in digital banking services.

c. Conduct regular audits and assessments: Regular audits and assessments of financial institutions’ cybersecurity measures can help identify vulnerabilities and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. External audits by reputable firms such as EY, KPMG, and PwC can provide an additional layer of assurance.

d. Educate consumers about data privacy: Collaborative efforts should focus on educating consumers about their rights, privacy settings, and safe practices when using digital banking services. By promoting awareness and providing guidance, customers can make informed decisions and protect their data.

Technology’s role in shaping the future of banking and financial services in Iraq is significant. The ongoing advancements in digital infrastructure, partnerships, and adoption of fintech solutions demonstrate the sector’s commitment to progress. Collaboration among stakeholders is crucial to establish a robust legal and regulatory framework for consumer data security and protection. By investing in digital infrastructure, embracing fintech solutions, and strengthening cybersecurity measures, Iraq can build a secure and efficient digital banking ecosystem that benefits its citizens and contributes to financial inclusion and economic growth.

This article is brought to you in collaboration with Iraqi Innovators. Wedo is your one-stop destination for educational services and strategic business consulting in Iraq & beyond. From comprehensive training programs to expert guidance on investment readiness preparation and board establishment.

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