MENA and Open Banking: A Conversation with Mohammed Aziz of Dapi

This week for Finovate Global, we caught up with Mohammed Aziz, co-founder and CEO of Dapi, a fintech startup that offers a suite of open banking APIs to help connect customer bank accounts, initiate payments, and access data in real-time. Founded in 2019, the company currently operate in six countries in the Middle East and Africa, and is headquartered in both San Francisco, California, and the UAE.

We talked about the opportunity for open banking to fuel innovation in financial services in emerging economies, as well as the overall environment for fintech innovation in the MENA region. We also discussed the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on pre-existing trends such as digitization.

Finovate: Dapi is the third company you’ve founded, but your first fintech. What made you want to focus on the opportunities in this industry? What do you bring to fintech from your experience in other areas?

Mohammed Aziz: Dapi was the result of a problem that I personally faced when trying to build “Spendy” a hybrid between a peer to peer payment application and a personal financial management app. We were unable to build out Spendy for most emerging markets due to the lack of bank connectivity which got us super keen to build out the underlying infrastructure that would power the future of fintech in these markets.

Finovate: Tell us about Dapi. What problem does your company solve and who are your primary customers?

Aziz: Dapi’s mission is to provide the building blocks for a thriving fintech ecosystem in emerging markets around the world. Our API serves as the bridge between financial applications and banks, empowering developers to create digital wallets, budget trackers, investment applications and more. Our clients are developers working on fintech applications, businesses hoping to include financial services in their mobile and web offerings, and anyone that wants to include bank functionality within their digital offerings.

Finovate: Your business strategy relies on an embrace of open banking in the MENA region. How strong is the movement toward open banking there?

Aziz: The MENA region is a very exciting space to be operating in right now. Fintech is only beginning to develop here and the market is pretty much untapped, so we are hoping to serve as an influence towards the region embracing open banking and all the opportunities that come with that. I would also like to point out that we are able to activate and build connectivity regardless of open banking being present or not. We like to take the approach that companies like Plaid in the US or Truelayer in the UK did, whereby they were connected to banks despite frameworks and regulation being in place.

Finovate: Aside from open banking, what are some of the other exciting trends in the fintech industry in the Middle East/Abu Dhabi right now?

Aziz: There’s a general trend of growing interest for the kinds of applications that financial technology empowers, from digital wallets and peer to peer applications to investment platforms and digital banks. The market is new and rapidly evolving. 

Finovate: We talk about the Middle East and North Africa as a region. But there is a great deal of variation among countries in MENA. How does this impact your ability to market your technology in the area?

Aziz: Beyond market considerations, the regulation surrounding the use of APIs in financial applications varies greatly from country to country. This is a new and mostly unregulated space, but we have had to consider completely separate approaches to integrating our services in the UAE as opposed to KSA, for example. Culture is also another important factor, as it varies between countries and impacts the products that you would want to launch along with the go-to-market approach. 

Finovate: How has COVID-19 impacted the fintech industry in the region? Early in the crisis, we heard news from countries like Iran, but not as much since. How are businesses, especially fintech businesses, faring?

Aziz: The COVID-19 pandemic and its push towards social distancing and remote work  has actually increased interest in digitization of financial services. For example, there have been a number of announcements within the UAE that the country will be moving towards enabling more online payments and other financial services without the need to physically go to a bank.

Finovate: You participated in the Y Combinator program. What was that experience like? What advice do you have for startups with the opportunity to pursue a similar path with a top-notch accelerator?

Aziz: Y Combinator has been a phenomenal experience for us. It really put us out there on the map and helped expand our network in silicon valley. From our experience, investors and VCs in the US are not usually convinced about investing in early stage MENA startups, but YC really helps establish that credibility.  

Finovate: Tell us about your experience of setting up your business in Abu Dhabi.

Aziz: Abu Dhabi is an exciting place to work, since it is a rapidly growing and developing market, as mentioned above. Furthermore, we have received a lot of support from our involvement in ADGM and Hub71, which provided resources for us to establish and grow our operations in these beginning stages. 

Finovate: What can we expect from Dapi over the balance of 2020 and beyond?

Aziz: We are very excited to continue growing and expanding into a variety of developing markets, beyond the UAE. At the same time, we have a number of exciting partnerships in our sights for the UAE, which we hope will bring our vision of a strong fintech ecosystem in the MENA region closer to reality.


Here is our look at fintech around the world.

Asia-Pacific

  • Singapore-based MatchMove launches cross-border remittance platform for businesses.
  • Clik, a payment aggregator and merchant acquirer based in Cambodia, raises $3.7 million in seed funding.
  • Leading Asian financial services platform GoBear teams up with UnionBank to launch lending-as-a-service solution in the Philippines; announces new Chief Financial Officer.

Sub-Saharan Africa

  • Fiserv inks partnership with Absa Regional Operations (ARO) to enhance credit card management and processing in nine African countries.
  • Ecobank Group unveils the finalists for its fintech challenge, now in its third year. Ten African startups from seven different countries made the cut out of an applicant pool of more than 600.
  • Salaam Gateway looks at the development of Islamic fintech in Kenya.

Central and Eastern Europe

  • Onfido to streamline digital identity verification for Poland’s Alior Bank.
  • Russia’s Tinkoff Bank launches new charitable program, Cashback to Give Back.
  • Austrian regtech kompany lands $7.14 million in funding.

Middle East and Northern Africa

  • Salt Edge partners with Jordan Ahli Bank Cyprus, making it one of the first banking groups in Cyprus to achieve PSD2 compliance.
  • Israeli fintech Approve.com raises $5 million in seed funding for its technology that automates the procurement process.
  • Infosys Finacle to deploy its Liquidity Management platform with National Bank of Bahrain.

Central and Southern Asia

  • Uzbekistan’s People’s Bank partners with Finastra to automate its risk management business.
  • TerraPay collaborates with Bank Alfalah to enable instant money transfers to Pakistan.
  • Indian B2B fintech Signzy announces plans to hire “close to 70” employees over the next six moths in response to increased demand.

Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Feedzai expands partnership with PayU, enabling the company to enhance its fraud prevention capabilities in Latin America and the EMEA region.
  • TechCrunch profiles Mozper, a digital banking service based in Latin America that caters to parents and Gen Z kids.
  • MercadoLibre announces plans to launch branded credit cards in Brazil and Chile “in the near future.”

Finovate Alums Earn Spots on Deloitte’s 2019 Technology Fast 500

Of the 500 fastest growing technology companies in North America right now, how many have demonstrated their technology live on the Finovate stage?

The answer, courtesy of Deloitte’s just-released 2019 Technology Fast 500 ranking, is a full, baker’s dozen of thirteen innovative firms that have introduced their solutions to Finovate audiences. Update: 11/13: Make that 14 companies!

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500, so we are especially pleased to announce and congratulate the 2019 winners,” Deloitte Vice Chairman Sandra Shirai said. “Once again, we saw innovation across the board, with software companies continuing their dominance of the top ten. It’s always inspiring to see how the Fast 500 companies are transforming business and the world we live and work in.”

Making the top 20 of Finovate alums making the cut was Unison, which made its Finovate debut at FinovateSpring in 2017, winning Best of Show. Unison’s HomeBuyer and HomeOwner solutions help make homes more affordable and home equity easier and less expensive to access.

Also notable on Deloitte’s list is the appearance of two of our newest alums – SheerID and EVERFI – which demonstrated their solutions earlier this year at FinovateSpring.

Check out all the Finovate alums that made the list below. We’ve included their Technology Fast 500 rank, three-year revenue growth rate, headquarters location, and a link to the company’s most recent Finovate demo video.

Unison
Rank #19
Growth 5,280%
San Francisco, California
FinovateFall 2017

Signifyd
Rank #115
Growth: 1,084%
San Jose, California
FinovateSpring 2013

Juvo
Rank #122
Growth: 1,036%
San Francisco, California
FinovateFall 2016

WorkFusion
Rank #129
Growth: 974%
New York City, New York
FinovateFall 2014

Alkami
Rank #130
Growth: 958%
Plano, Texas
FinovateSpring 2009 (as iThryv)

Payfone
Rank #185
Growth: 596%
New York City, New York
FinovateFall 2012

Passport
Rank #214
Growth: 510%
Charlotte, North Carolina
FinovateEurope 2016

Feedzai
Rank #231
Growth: 472%
San Mateo, California
FinovateEurope 2014

SheerID
Rank #243
Growth: 450%
Portland, Oregon
FinovateSpring 2019

WealthForge
Rank #297
Growth: 359%
Richmond, Virginia
FinovateSpring 2016

Dashlane
Rank #348
Growth: 282%
New York City, New York
FinovateEurope 2013

Lendio
Rank #378
Growth: 250%
Lehi, Utah
FinovateSpring 2011

Kabbage
Rank #448
Growth: 198%
Atlanta, Georgia
FinovateSpring 2015

EVERFI
Rank #469
Growth: 184%
Washington, D.C.
FinovateSpring 2019



Finovate Alumni News

Around the web

  • Ephesoft forges partnership with RPA leader Automation Anywhere.
  • Visa launches its Visa Partner Portal to give fintechs greater access to its payments technologies and solutions.
  • Feedzai announces availability of its AI-powered Case Manager solution.
  • Collaboration between Q2 and Socure brings digital identity verification and fraud protection to Q2 Open’s CorePro cloud-based core processor.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • BeSmartee Unveils New Mortgage TPO Platform.

Around the web

  • Identitii is now a ‘Co-Sell Ready’ partner for Microsoft.
  • Feedzai launches tools to help banks offer account opening solutions with fraud prevention.
  • Bankingblocks leverages Five Degrees’ Matrix solution as its digital core banking platform.
  • Eurobank Group selects TemenosT24 Transact for its subsidiaries.
  • Insuritas Launches Tucson Federal Insurance Agency for Tucson FCU.
  • Former Mastercard executive David Yates joins Yoyo as chairman.
  • AlphaPoint names co-founder Igor Telyatnikov as its new CEO.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Feedzai and North American Bancard Partner to Fight Fraud

A new partnership between North American Bancard (NAB) and Feedzai will put machine learning to work to help merchants better manage risk and fight fraud. The two companies have collaborated to build a set of customized fraud prevention tools that leverage real-time data insights to identify suspicious patterns and transaction anomalies that often are the tell-tale signs of criminal activity online.

Saurabh Bajaj, Feedzai Head of Product, emphasized the importance of real-time technology in the fight against emergent fraud threats. He pointed out that while consumers and merchants alike have benefitted from the rise of digital technologies in e-commerce, these gains have come at a cost.

“Digital transformation across industries has been great for consumers, but also for increasingly sophisticated fraudsters looking for new ways to commit fraud,” Bajaj said. “That’s why we need a real-time AI engine that can secure transactions, using intelligence across all business channels.”

NAB Chief Risk Officer Jay Nadarajah highlighted the importance of maintaining a quality customer experience while improving the security of that experience. “Facilitating safe, secure, and fast transactions while eliminating friction in the underwriting and risk processes through technological advancements is at the core of what we’re trying to offer to merchants,” Nadarajah said. “These technological advancements drive efficiencies and speed in identifying fraudulent activity.”

Founded in 1992, North American Bancard is a payments technology company with more than 350,000 business customers in the U.S. and Canada. The Troy, Michigan-based firm offers payment processing and acceptance solutions including free EMV and NFC hardware, no long-term contracts, and acceptance of most major credit cards and PayPal at rates starting at 0.29%.

Feedzai demonstrated its Fraud Prevention platform at FinovateEurope 2014. Earlier this month, the company announced a partnership with Raiffeisen Bank International to use advanced machine learning to help the European bank fight fraud. In March, Aite Group named Feedzai Best in Class in the vendor market for fraud and anti-money laundering solutions.

With more than $76 million in funding, Feedzai includes Data Collective (DCVC), Sapphire Ventures, Citi Ventures, and Oak HC/FT among its investors. Nuno Sebastiao is CEO of the company, which is headquartered in San Mateo, California, and was founded in 2011.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Feedzai and North American Bancard Partner to Fight Fraud.
  • FinovateSpring’s Friday Finale Tackles Fintech’s Toughest Topics.

Around the web

  • Aite Group’s 2019 report on fraud and AML machine learning platform vendors recognizes Featurespace as Best-in-Class.
  • Salt Edge releases 60+ PSD2 API sandboxes.
  • ACI Worldwide to help Indonesia interbank network ALTO to expand its payment capabilities.
  • Jack Henry & Associates unveils its digital account opening solution, JHA OpenAnywhere.
  • Worldpay to release FraudSight machine learning-powered fraud solution.
  • PAUL UK selects Yoyo to introduce a combined mobile payments and personalized loyalty app to its customers.
  • Mint rolls out a new app experience for Android users

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Kazakh Eurasian Bank Upgrades Cash Tech with Fiserv.
  • Token.io Teams Up with Omnio Group to Boost Open Banking.
  • Financeit to Power Mobile POS Financing for ServiceTitan.
  • Expensify Integrates with Southeast Asia Ridesharing Company Grab.

Around the web

  • The Five Minute Founder podcast interviews Jake Tyler, Finn AI CEO.
  • STRANDS and adorsys expand their partnership for digital transformation for global financial services.
  • Signifyd to power fraud protection for Solupay’s NetSuite SuitePayments.
  • Kony ships Kony Quantum for Microsoft Azure and Kony DBX digital banking suite on Kony Quantum for Azure.
  • Connect Financial Software Solutions partners with CuneXus to offer the CuneXus perpetual loan automation platform to its credit union clients.
  • Georg von Brevern joins Ixaris as Chief Legal and Compliance Officer.
  • Telenor to acquire majority stake in the Finnish telecom operator DNA.
  • Crypterium launches Crypterium SX, an AI-based system that ensures all transactions get the best exchange rates available.
  • Omnio Group and Token.io partner to deliver open banking and PSD2 compliance to Omnio’s financial institution customers.
  • Raiffeisen Bank International partners with Feedzai to bring advanced ML to European banking to fight fraud.
  • Jack Henry’s ProfitStars unveils Gladiator Total Protect, a suite of managed IT, network security, and compliance services to enhance banks’ cybersecurity and compliance management.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

Around the web

  • Avaloq signs clients for PSD2 service.
  • Kontomatik enters Southeast Asian market.
  • Feedzai named best in class in fraud and AML vendor market by Aite Group.
  • Yahoo! Finance features SocietyOne and the growth of P2P lending in Australia.
  • American Banker: Jumio teams up with ComplyAdvantage to help banks ID crooks.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Feedzai and DataRobot Team Up to Tackle Financial Crime

Anti-fraud solution provider Feedzai has collaborated with DataRobot to enable FIs, merchants, and processors to add DataRobot’s machine learning models to the Feedzai platform. The integration, made possible via the OpenML platform Feedzai announced last year, will enable FIs to automate the creation of advanced machine learning models for fraud detection and AML, providing a higher level of defense against financial crime.

“This integration with DataRobot enables us to further open the Feedzai platform to powerful machine learning algorithms into our platform to offer even more of the world’s advanced AI tools to our customers,” Feedzai SVP of Product Saurabh Bajaj said. “This is how we are democratizing AI for our customers.”

The integration also gives data scientists the ability to conduct data cleaning and analysis, feature engineering, and model training and testing, all within the Feedzai platform. Data scientists can also import external models to the platform, as well as take advantage of Feedzai’s other tools, including its automated rules engine, advanced link analysis, Risk Ledger, and Genome to enhance fraud detection further.

“Our partnership with Feedzai gives banks and other financial institutions the flexibility to use the machine learning technology and tools that best fit their needs,” SVP of Business Development for DataRobot Seann Gardiner said. “The combination of Feedzai’s impressive threat detection technology and our world-class automated machine learning capabilities create a best-of-breed solution to fight fraud with unprecedented accuracy.”

With $5 billion in transactions scored daily, Feedzai protects 10 of the largest 25 global banks from fraud. Last month, the company announced a strategic partnership with Citi, which will feature the integration of Feedzai’s anti-fraud technology with Citi’s Treasury and Trade Solutions. Feedzai also unveiled its latest financial crime prevention solution, Risk Ledger, in December. Risk Ledger leverages the millions of transactions processed via its platform to provide a more comprehensive anti-fraud solution.

Founded in 2009 and based in San Francisco, California, Feedzai demonstrated its fraud prevention technology at FinovateEurope 2014. The company has raised $76.1 million in funding, and includes Data Collective DCVC, Sapphire Ventures, Citi Ventures, and Oak HC/FT among its investors.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Feedzai and DataRobot Team Up to Tackle Financial Crime.
  • Revolut Turns to ClauseMatch to Streamline Compliance.

Around the web

  • Identity verification specialist Onfido partners with augmented identity innovator IDEMIA.
  • NICE Actimize unveils new integrated fraud management platform, IFM-X.
  • Open banking platform provider Token hires new Chief Technology Officer, Gaurav Kohli.
  • RightCapital taps Pietro La Greca as VP of Enterprise Sales.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.

Citi Forges Strategic Partnership with Feedzai

Citi’s Treasury and Trade Solutions will integrate transaction monitoring technology from Feedzai. The integration comes courtesy of a newly-announced strategic partnership, and reflects a relationship that extends back to 2016, when Citi Ventures made a strategic investment in the AI-based real-time risk management solution provider.

“Citi is one of the most successful banks in the world for a reason, because they invest in their customers’ experience,” Feedzai CEO and co-founder Nuno Sebastiao said. “We’re proud to continue working together to be part of that innovation that helps Citi to continue to show the world what world-class digital transformation for banks looks like.”

Powered by advanced machine learning technology, Feedzai’s transaction monitoring platform will combine with Citi’s proprietary services and platforms to give clients better control and risk management for payment transactions. The technology analyzes and identifies potential customer payment behavior anomalies before the payments are sent for clearing, while at the same time ensuring prompt and efficient processing. Citi plans to go live with a new, Feedzai-powered risk management solution in 2019.

“Our strategic partnership with Feedzai demonstrates our deep commitment to using technology to drive innovation,” said Manish Kohli, Global Head of Payments and Receivables for Citi’s Treasury and Trade Solutions. “With the help of Feedzai’s solution, we can scale rapidly in an effort to deliver value to our clients, allowing them to make payments securely, efficiently, and without friction, across the globe,” Kohli said.

Feedzai’s strategic partnership news comes just a few weeks after the company announced the release of its financial crime prevention solution, Risk Ledger. This summer, Feedzai announced that it would offer its machine learning technology, AutoML, to automate and streamline the work of data scientists. A partnership with e-commerce bank, Credorax, reported in July, will empower the merchant acquisition specialist to offer better anti-fraud protections for its partners.

Founded in 2008 and based in San Mateo, California, Feedzai demonstrated its fraud prevention technology at FinovateEurope 2014. The company’s platform scores $5 billion in transactions daily and protects 10 of the largest 25 global banks against transaction fraud. Feedzai has raised $82 million in funding from investors including Data Collective DCVC, Sapphire Ventures, Citi Ventures, and Oak HC/FT.

Citi participated in our developers conference, FinDEVr New York 2017, providing a discussion on OAuth tokenization and the company’s Developer Hub. The bank, with more than 200 million customer accounts, was founded in 1812 and conducts operations in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions around the world.

Finovate Alumni News

On Finovate.com

  • Citi Forges Strategic Partnership with Feedzai.

Around the web

  • Clinc Brings Conversational AI to Turkey’s Isbank.
  • FinTech Futures sits down with TransferWise’s Stuart Gregory to talk about the power of partnerships.
  • Intelligent CIO looks at the merger of Polish fintechs, Braintri and iCompass.
  • Experian launches Experian Boost, an online platform that enables consumers to instantly improve their credit scores by providing additional financial information.
  • Envestnet president Bill Crager is featured in Financial Planning’s 19 People Who Will Change Wealth Management in 2019.

This post will be updated throughout the day as news and developments emerge. You can also follow all the alumni news headlines on the Finovate Twitter account.