Etisalat Group and partners receive digital bank approval

Etisalat Group and partners receive digital bank approval


Etisalat Group has received approval to launch a digital banking platform, Wio, in the UAE.

Etisalat has partnered with local player First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and UAE-based conglomerates ADQ and Alpha Dhabi Holding to deliver the financial services platform, after ADQ obtained a digital banking licence from FAB in 2020.

Today, the country's central bank gave in-principle approval for Wio's launch.

Wio's total invested capital is AED2.3 billion ($626 million) plus in-kind contribution and its ownership structure sees Etisalat hold a 25% share – for which it invested 639 million dirhams – while ADQ and Alpha Dhabi hold 65% and FAB holds 10%.

Khalifa Hassan Al Shamsi, CEO of Etisalat consumer digital, said: "The fintech industry is a key driver of digital transformation in the UAE and has grown exponentially due to changing consumer payment behaviour and new tech-driven convenient offerings.

"Customers are increasingly adopting contactless payments in physical stores and using fully digital financial products. Building on our fintech portfolio, the Wio partnership is part of our strategy to meet the growing consumer demands with 360-degree products and services that enhance their daily digital lives."

Many telcos around the world have seen huge returns from diversifying to offer mobile money services, but Wio is different.

A digital bank – also sometimes called a challenger bank or neobank – is a financial institution combining online and mobile banking but not offering physical branch locations. The range of services on offer varies from one institution to the other, but they can include everything from current accounts to mortgages for individuals and businesses, depending on the location.

In the UAE, several traditional banks have launched digital-only brands, but the central bank is also licensing independent digital banks, such as Etisalat's venture.

Wio is offering customers "a fully digital banking choice with tailored products and services to meet their lifestyles and needs", although it isn't clear if the bank will step into lending at a future date.

As for what happens next, a Beta version will launch "soon", initially providing an "innovative, engaging customer-centric experience underpinned by security, transparency and convenience" tailored for SMEs.




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