How long has AFS been in Bahrain?
AFS was established in 1984. We are licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain as an ancillary services provider and a payment services provider. Today we serve over 70 banks, financial institutions, telecommunications companies [telcos] and retailers in over 20 countries in the Middle East and Africa region.
What is the core of the company’s business?
AFS provides end-to-end payment solutions for its banks, financial institutions, telcos and retailers. Our vision is to be the partner of choice for payments and be the leading fintech enabler for our customers.
AFS has recently launched bwallet, a new fintech service, can you please explain what this is?
bwallet is the first product in Bahrain that offers easy and convenient P2P [person-to-person] money transfers in addition to offering an easy way to pay at merchant locations using the quick response [QR] code technology. It is also the first product to offer a unique KYC feature for registering customers – eliminating the need for customers to personally submit physical documents.
We hear you partnered with Batelco to release the app. What was AFS’s role in the development and roll-out and how does the product align with the services the company offers to banks and other financial institutions?
AFS and Batelco jointly developed the product. AFS is the leader in providing innovative payment products and bwallet is the latest addition to this suite.
What are the future plans or vision for bwallet?
In the future we will enable overseas money transfers to other overseas wallets and introduce more merchant offers and discounts to make bwallet the best way to pay.
What are the benefits for users, both individual and businesses?
The benefit to individuals is that there is no need to use physical cash or for users to swipe a card at merchant locations — customers can pay conveniently by simply using their mobile phones. There will be several offers at merchant locations, which also adds value to the product. We already have an offer with Dana Cinema where customers can enjoy a ‘buy one, get one free’ on movie tickets. Customers also receive two per cent cashback till March 31, 2018, on their monthly spends and this will be credited at the end of each month.
For the merchant this removes the need to store physical cash and solves reconciliation problems. The cost of carrying physical cash is a huge burden on most businesses. bwallet eliminates this cost.
It is a very recent launch. What has been the market reaction so far?
We have had a fantastic response to our launch; we expect this to increase further as customers and merchants realise the benefits of using bwallet.
AFS is currently gearing up for its second fintech conference in partnership with Bank ABC. What will be this year’s theme?
This year our theme is Beyond Disruption and we have lined up an array of renowned speakers from across the world. The fintech industry is moving fast and, in our view, the disruption has already begun in the market.
Who will be the notable speakers attending and their areas of expertise?
Amongst the impressive list of speakers, we have HE Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain; Sael Al Waary, chairman of AFS and deputy group CEO of Bank ABC; Anthony Thomson, founder and former chairman of Atom Bank and Metro Bank; Gregg Cross, chief business officer Soul Machines; Alastair Lukies, CBE, the chairman of Innovate Finance and UK Prime Minister’s Business Ambassador for Fintech.
Participation at the event is by invitation only. We are expecting around 350 guests from Bahrain and the MEA region.
What are AFS’s plans for the future. Are there any other new developments in the pipeline?
AFS plans to expand its geographic footprint, and expanding the Africa region is integral and key to our growth. In the MEA region, we will be strengthening our ties with both current and new clients by providing both innovative products and enabling fintech solutions for our customers.
We are also expanding our fintech business by introducing state-of-the-art fintech products. We will be enhancing our digital banking solution to offer a ‘digital bank in a box’ product.
AFS plans to enter the merchant acquiring business by introducing a state-of-the-art point of sales solution in 2018.