Wed, 04 October 2023
Since it was established in 1997, the BENEFIT Company has revolutionised the financial sector in Bahrain. Kristian Harrison sat down with BENEFIT’s Deputy Chief Executive of Business Development & Services, Yousif Mohammed Al-Nefaiei, to discuss the reasons behind the company’s successes and its future strategic goals.
How much influence do you think BENEFIT had as a pioneer of financial technology in the Kingdom?
We are very proud that Bahrain ranks second globally in real-time payment adoption, according to Global Data reports that highlights the tremendous development of real-time payments globally. BENEFIT’s Real-Time Payments Scheme Fawri+ has enabled a significant increase in the adoption of real-time payments during 2020.
BENEFIT has grown hugely and last year had 252m total transactions and 1.3m users. What do you attribute this success to?
The widespread usage of our services shows that it is a valuable commodity with our customers, and we expect numbers to grow even further this year. BENEFIT is attached to people’s daily needs and lifestyle with its convenience, ease of use and fast service.
How much has BENEFIT’s policy of Bahrainisation helped it to achieve its success?
Bahrainis are well-known to be hard-working, especially when it comes to Fintech, banking and technology. These fields are attractive to people in Bahrain and BENEFIT has an obligation to enhance our talent in that area. More than 92 percent of our employees are Bahraini; the importance is not the number though, but the quality and the talent they possess.
What are BENEFIT’s strategic goals, both in the short and long term?
We would like to assure that our strategy is aligned with the national directions under the guidance of Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).
We cannot separate our goals as they are both integrated. Our strategy always focuses on four main principles; the first being the infrastructure of payments and elevating by introducing more innovative payment tools. Secondly, we are focusing on enablement of digital transformation by introducing a set of APIs to help banks and government institutions to digitise their processes. Thirdly, we want to enhance the business side of the organisations dealing with us, developing intelligent tools to boost their revenues. Finally, we want to enable innovation, creating more artificial intelligent tools and becoming distinguished when it comes to offering service through data and technology.
What does BENEFIT do for the Bahrain community through its Corporate Social Responsibility programmes?
BENEFIT’s CSR policy is attached to our ESG goals and recently we have contributed in four main areas. In education we co-operated with a local university to boost their Fintech and data science programmes. In technology, we worked with University of Bahrain to build a state-of-the-art lab to focus on artificial intelligence and cloud computing. On the environmental side, we are very proud to work with the National Initiative for Agricultural Development, and where healthcare is concerned, we sponsor advanced medical equipment.
How seriously does BENEFIT treat matters of cybersecurity and what strategies are in place to improve or safeguard the interests and finances of its customers?
Being a national critical system infrastructure operator puts a lot of pressure on us but we are compliant with a number of international schemes. We do a lot of red teaming and exercising of crises and disasters. When it comes to innovation, our first question is always how secure it will be and how robust our defences are.
Anything more to add?
We are currently working on boosting our R&D through the acquisition of Bahrain Fintech Bay (BFB), and collaborating with them on different initiatives such as hackathons and studies.
I believe BENEFIT should continue its role and obligation whilst it continues to boost the electronic payments ecosystem and introduce more data hub AI models. Most importantly, we should lead by example and maintain our leadership both in the region and globally to ensure Bahrain stays at the forefront of the Fintech industry.