Moven teams up with Saudi firm in cross-border fintech experiment

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Two fintech firms from different sides of the world — one a pioneer challenger bank from the United States, the other a fast-growing payments app in Saudi Arabia — are joining forces to create a banking service for young, tech-savvy Saudis who shy away from cash and spend a lot of time on their smartphones.

At one end of the partnership is Moven, an early challenger bank founded by Brett King in 2010. Over the last few years, it has ratcheted up the enterprise software side of its business, providing technology to banks around the world including TD Bank in Canada, Westpac in New Zealand and BCA in Indonesia.

On the other end is STC Pay. Its digital wallet app, which launched in 2018, allows users to make purchases, pay bills and transfer money to contacts in their phones, local bank accounts or international Western Union agents.

Ahmed Alenazi, CEO of STC Pay, and Brett King, founder and CEO of Moven, sign their partnership agreement.

It operates under a license from the Electronic Money Institution through the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority and is part of STC Group, the largest telecom in Saudi Arabia. In its first 10 months after exiting the pilot stage, STC Pay racked up 2 million users. The entire population of Saudi Arabia is about 35 million people.

Both fintechs say their collaboration will help them expand faster than they could have on their own and deliver financial wellness and banking services to customers hungry for such services.

“Moven has 10 years under its belt developing front-end architecture for challenger banks,” King said. “The modern-day challenger bank is not just about the core system and front end, but it has [artificial intelligence] capabilities and data science layers.” For example, Moven’s algorithms can predict customer needs, such as an inability to pay a bill in the near term.

Moven is building the user experience for day-to-day banking in STC Pay, as well as providing access to a private cloud integrated into a core banking system and payments processor gateway.

Between this collaboration with STC Pay and his company’s work with financial institutions around the world, King predicts more than 50 million people will use Moven technology by the end of the year.

STC Pay hopes to see its app on every smartphone in the region and provide quick, easy financial services that cater to the individual customer.

“One of the pillars of our strategies is to be customer-centric,” said Ahmed Alenazi, CEO of STC Pay.

There are 13 local banks and many branches of foreign banks in Saudi Arabia, but none of them are providing customized services, Alenazi said. “If you go to YouTube, you want to see videos that you like,” he said. “We want a unique service that meets the requirements of this generation.”

That could include, for example, specific messaging tied to customers' behavior or financial psychological profile.

The new banking features are expected to roll out in Saudi Arabia this summer and will include a bank account, digital onboarding and virtual and physical cards. They hope to introduce microlending at a later date and eventually expand to other countries in the Gulf region and in Asia.

The cashless trend STC Pay and Moven are eyeing could accelerate in coming weeks as consumers seek to avoid physical contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think there will be more contactless and digital engagement, and we will be moving away from physical cash,” King said. “This is a move to optimize customer support and service in the digital world. Under current circumstances, that is not only a good thing, but seems necessary.”

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