Exploring new frontiers in open banking

Oman Arab Bank, OAB, Innovation
Leen Al Atassi, Head of Innovation, Oman Arab Bank

Oman Arab Bank’s 2020 Innovation Hub which focuses on the concept of ‘open banking’ offers an opportunity for students, Fintechs and OAB employees to test their innovations, says Leen Al Atassi, Head of Innovation at the bank

How is OAB’s Innovation Hub 2020 going to be different compared to the first edition of the event last year?

The main highlight of the upcoming edition of the Innovation Hub is that it will be taking place at the newly established Innovation Lab and Auditorium. The new facility will be the first-of-its-kind in Oman and is envisioned to serve as a platform to enable innovation, accelerate OAB’s enterprise-wide digital agenda, develop local talent, and strengthen the fintech ecosystem.

Read also: Middle East startup ecosystem raises record $704 million in 2019, FinTech on top

Grounded in the principles of ‘lean startup methodology’ is OAB’s internal innovation model, which will encourage internal entrepreneurship by empowering OAB employees to build, test and launch new solutions that are exponentially better for clients.

This year’s Innovation Hub theme focuses on the concept of ‘open banking’, and the 2020 Innovation Hub is opening its doors to students, Fintechs and OAB employees to test their innovations in this particular sphere.

This year’s event will also see the presence of several speakers from Startup Grind: Brendan McKittrick, CEO of Aeroband; Majid Al Amri, CEO of Thawani and Ahmed Moor, CEO of Liwwa who will be sharing their experiences and success stories to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Over 450 participants are currently expected and we will also be hosting developers from local technology SMEs, such as Phaze Ro to support Oman Arab Bank’s 2020 Innovation Hub which focuses on the concept of ‘open banking’ offers an opportunity for students, Fintechs and OAB employees to test their innovations, says Leen Al Atassi, Head of Innovation at the bank our participants.

Read also: Fintech 2020: Big Tech Is Coming for Banking

In addition, we will see the involvement of our key sponsors, including Visa, IDO, GBM and Omantel. And moreover, all the food requirements will be covered by Muscat Eats alongside the presence of international participants flying in to be a part of the event.

The Innovation Hub 2.0 will be an entirely digital experience from check-in to pitch presentation. Business partners will be available on-site to keep an eye on potential employees, advertising career opportunities to have them be a part of their organisations in the future.

Furthermore, we have invited various investment funds and venture capital firms to listen in during the final pitch round to potentially identify fintechs they want to work with. The winners of this year’s event will be incubated in our Innovation Lab and will have access to one-on-one mentoring, certified and accelerated development programmes, as well as the opportunity to work on key strategic innovation projects.

Last year’s winning teams joined OAB’s Innovation Internship Programme. What kind of mentoring and training did they get during this period? How did it help them to launch to the job market?

The nine student finalists from last year’s Innovation Hub were given the opportunity to work closely with subject matter experts from OAB to further develop their innovations. Moreover, they were provided with access to one-to-one mentoring, certified agile training workshops and enhanced their knowledge by meeting industry experts and top fintechs, such as Brett King.

Two of the students were offered a job opportunity at OAB, while the remaining were employed in leading companies and institutions, based on their level of experience and expertise.

How many of those ideas which were inducted into OAB’s ‘Innovation Lab’ since 2019 could be developed and implemented?

Two significant projects have been developed and are close to being launched soon, namely, the “Saif” ChatBot and MarketConnect, the first-of-its-kind business-to-business e-commerce platform.

“Saif” is an informational ChatBot, which will be initially rolled out via WhatsApp. It provides customers with an easy way to enquire about OAB’s products, services and offers through a dedicated Whatsapp number.

This innovative development will also include other interesting marketing features. MarketConnect was developed as a state-of-the-art integrated online marketplace for SMEs and businesses. It is the first of its kind platform, offering efficient marketing solutions, purchase and sale of products and services at significantly lower market prices, while simultaneously tracking sales and lead features at no extra cost.

This solution is primarily catered towards SMEs and start-up businesses in the Sultanate, in line with our commitment to play an integral role in their growth, alongside creating an innovative ecosystem for entrepreneurship.

This story was first published in OER (Oman Economic Review). Find the e-edition here.

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