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Interview: We look to repeat Finastra Egypt Digital Trade Forum – Serge Tohme

Interview: We look to repeat Finastra Egypt Digital Trade Forum – Serge Tohme
Finastra's solutions cover 90% of banks’ needs

Mubasher: Finastra was founded in 2017 from the merger of two fintech giants, D+H, a leading financial technology provider and Misys, which provides software solutions focused on retail and corporate banking services.

Serge Tohme, Managing Director, MENA, and Turkey at Finastra, told Mubasher that 7% of the company’s global business is done in the region, while 40 of the top 50 Middle Eastern banks use Finastra solutions.


(Serge Tohme, Managing Director, MENA, and Turkey at Finastra)
 

Finastra has been recently in the market and getting $1.9 billion in revenues. How do you plan to raise this value in the coming years?

We have over 8,500 customers globally, including 90 of the top 100 banks.

We have offices in Dubai and Riyadh, which are key focus areas in the region. We are also very present in Egypt, Morocco, and Bahrain as well as the wider MENA region where we are looking to expand further into.

Over the past two years, Finastra has moved from a solution vendor to a platform company with the launch of ‘FusionFabric.cloud’, our platform for open innovation. We are changing the way financial services software is developed, deployed, and consumed, like no one else – building the foundations of a completely new financial services ecosystem and marketplace. We are opening up our APIs [application program interfaces] for core retail banking, payments, corporate banking, lending and treasury, and capital markets, and enabling the wider ecosystem to build on top of them to increase innovation and offer better services to a growing market. Building and strengthening this ecosystem is our key focus for 2020. We already have over 60 APIs available on the platform and we are hoping to more than double this by the end of the year.

In terms of areas of focus in the region, retail banking has been quick to adapt to today’s mobile trends but we expect to see more of these services become available to corporate customers in 2020.

In 2018, you held the Finastra Egypt Digital Trade Forum. How successful was that event? Any plans to hold another edition of the Finastra Egypt Digital Trade Forum?

The Digital Trade Forum in Egypt was an opportunity for the trade team at Finastra to meet with senior practitioners from Egypt’s banking and financial services, including CIOs, COOs, and Heads of Transaction Banking, Digital Banking, Trade Finance, and Corporate Banking. The event was focused on understanding changing regulations in the market, barriers, limitations and opportunities for banks on their journey towards successful digitization in trade finance. It was also a great opportunity to share knowledge and gain insights from bankers and their clients. We are looking to repeat this event in Egypt, hopefully in the coming year.

In your recent deal with the United Arab Bank (UAB), Fusion Corporate Channels and Fusion Cash Management were selected by the bank. What makes these two choices tempting for clients to use?

As customer expectations are changing drastically and becoming increasingly demanding, it is crucial for traditional banks to reinvent themselves and the customer experience to maintain relevancy. To quickly adapt to changing trends and regulations banks need to be agile. The UAB chose us to enable them to strengthen their corporate offerings and attract more customers. With Finastra’s Fusion Corporate Channels and Fusion Cash Management solutions, the bank will provide a much improved, functionality-rich experience for corporate users and treasurers to effectively manage cashflows, unifying trade, supply chain finance, cash, lending, and treasury services for corporate clients. The solutions will be integrated with Fusion Equation under a single portal, providing better services and improving the entire customer experience.

Competing in the software industry requires fast pace. What does Finastra offer to provide maximum satisfaction for its customers?

Firstly, I would say through our solutions and software. Our solutions cover 90% of banks’ needs. The local expertise we have gained by being in the region for such a long time enables us to best serve our customers. We have also invested in local talent, a key factor in understating customer needs and imperative for success in the region. 

[The] FusionFabric.cloud platform connects creators in the fintech industry with those who want to consume those services. By creators we mean fintechs, banks’ in-house developers, universities and other independent software vendors – basically anyone who is developing applications for financial services. The consumers are the banks and financial institutions who will purchase and implement those applications. The platform supports the burgeoning fintech community, giving them a place to develop, test, and certify their applications, as well as providing a marketplace for them to reach the banks and financial institutions.

Secondly, we put our customers at the heart of what we do, and at the heart of our software. We consult and co-develop software with the customer in mind to make sure of delivering solutions that are truly adapted to the needs of the market.

In 2019, Finastra and Mashreq Bank, one of the leading financial institutions in the UAE, came together in Dubai, for a unique one-day workshop around the future of corporate banking. Over 40 bank customers and participants, including CFOs and SVPs from the telecommunications, utilities, and transportation industries, took part in the conversations to identify challenges facing the industry, and how best to tackle them. We are hoping to do much more of this in the coming year.

Finally, by adopting the latest technologies, from AI to blockchain with Fusion LenderComm, our tool for the syndicated lending market, and gradually moving our software to the cloud.


 

What can you uniquely offer to banks and other financial institutions?

A lot of our innovation is currently going into building out FusionFabric.cloud. We are making it really simple to onboard fintechs, banks and other developers so that they can build, test, deploy and monetize their apps within an end-to-end infrastructure.

We are very active in AI, data, and machine learning. We see these technologies having a huge impact on our customers in the future. We have teams in our innovation labs developing 4-5 prototypes, working with data stream sets to see how the technology can recognize patterns and develop insights that could be used to create recommendation engines, for example.

Blockchain, or distributed ledger technology is another area that has been a buzzword for some time. We have partnered with R3 to build Fusion LenderComm on Corda, R3’s enterprise blockchain technology. We developed it in close collaboration with some of the world’s leading banks, to deliver efficiencies and improve customer experience in a market that hasn’t changed in the past 20 years. In light of its [Fusion LenderComm] success, we are investing heavily in enterprise blockchain and exploring other areas where we can see it add value to our customers.

 

(Contributed by Ingy ElSafy)