Kuwait issues guidelines for digital banks; QR codes for cash in Argentina
According to a Medici report, almost 168 million people in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region do not have a bank account. In this environment, there are many opportunities for both traditional financial institutions and new entrants. In some cases, financial services companies have launched their own digital banking portals to reach beyond their current customer base. In other cases, these companies have partnered with challenger banks and innovative fintechs to help bridge the gap between the banked and the unbanked.
One of the challenges in reaching more potential customers in the MENA region has been regulation, which makes this week’s news from the Central Bank of Kuwait (CBK) all the more remarkable. The CBK has released a set of guidelines for digital banks as part of a campaign to improve financial stability, encourage innovation and help the country meet its economic needs.
To develop its guidelines, the CBK relied on a study of regulatory approaches taken by 25 central banks and 40 digital banking business models. The CBK noted that there are three main models of digital banking: as a unit within a traditional bank, a partnership between a bank and a digital-based institution in which the bank handles core banking operations while the partner institution manages customer relations and other operations, and as a stand-alone digital bank.
“The guidelines are divided into five parts covering the definition of digital banks, their legal framework and licensed activities, as well as the phases and procedures for establishing digital banks,” CBK Governor Dr. Mohammad Y said. Al-Hashel. The new guidelines pave the way for interested parties to apply by June 30. Initial approvals, according to the CBK Governor, will be made by the end of the year.
To learn more about the digital banking landscape in the Middle East, with a particular focus on neobanks, check out this overview from Medici.
Speaking of central banks, the head of Argentina’s central bank, Miguel Ángel Pesce, recently gave an interview to the Buenos Aires Times. The main focus of the conversation was a preliminary agreement with the International Monetary Fund to deal with the country’s $44.5 billion debt to the organization. The agreement, which includes a commitment to reduce the country’s budget deficit as well as other measures, comes after a two-year negotiation process and still requires the approval of Argentina’s congress as well as the IMF’s board of directors.
Still, it’s Pesce’s separate conversation with Buenos Aires journalist Jorge Fontevecchia – published this week – that may be of more interest to international fintech enthusiasts. In this interview, Pesce explained some of the Argentine central bank’s most controversial policies toward fintechs, including deposit insurance requirements for payment service companies. Pesce defended the practice as a way to “make the assets of companies that lend the assets deposited there more independent” and to ensure that companies that act as financial intermediaries are regulated as such. Pesce acknowledged that while the policy has created “some short-term resentment”, there is a need to ensure a “robust system” that banking customers can rely on.
In terms of innovation, Pesce spoke positively about the launch and adoption of interoperable QR codes, which were made mandatory in Argentina for all electronic invoices from the end of December 2020. He noted that interoperable QR codes could do to physical cash what electronic checks have done. to paper checks (“a very important step in this direction”). And while he didn’t offer any timetable for the transition, “it’s going to happen eventually,” Pesce insisted.
Read the full interview at the Buenos Aires Times
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Here’s our look at fintech innovation around the world.
Latin America and the Caribbean
Central and Eastern Europe
Middle East and North Africa
Central and South Asia
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