MEA Finance interviews GPS' Arnav Rath - Head of Region (MENA)
Arnav Rath is Head of Region (MENA) at Global Processing Services (GPS), the leading global payment technology platform, headquartered in London, UK, and expanding across the MENA region following a US$400 million capital injection in January 2022. With twenty years of experience in the Cards as a Service (CaaS) and Payments as a Service (PaaS) spaces, Rath joined the company last year to help emerging MENA fintechs and digital-focused banks access GPS’ award-winning API-first payments technology that enables innovative card programmes for the world’s leading fintechs, digital challenger banks, and embedded finance providers.
As a regional leader in banking technology, what has been at the top of your mind in the past year?
We have seen a seismic shift in consumer spending habits as we have all grappled with the physical restrictions placed on us by the continuing pandemic. Simultaneously, innovation in payments technology is accelerating in MENA which is exciting to see. Here in UAE, I’m fascinated by the ideas I am hearing as fintechs explore innovative ways to achieve the government’s vision to create a secure financial ecosystem, and its overall drive towards digital transformation across all sectors.
Amongst all this positivity, I have also been reflecting on those who perhaps did not have the same level of digital accessibility as others during the pandemic and what impact it may have had on them. As we move to a cashless economy, those people who sit outside the financial system and are already often in a vulnerable position need careful consideration.
I believe financial inclusion is vital for economic development and all of us in a position to innovate have an opportunity to help. Accordingly, I have been exploring ideas with innovators within the fast-growing MENA fintech ecosystem who have the flexibility and ability to explore ways to help those who are unbanked and vulnerable.
Describe how your experience of the past year has influenced the role you are in today?
As a leader, it has influenced my empathy as we have all lived through a shared global experience. As challenging as it has been for so many, it has allowed us to find common ground and broken down international barriers as we have opened up and shared our own personal experiences. As a species, human beings are instinctively social and given the physical restrictions placed on us all, in-person social interaction has been difficult. Certainly international travel has been much reduced, limiting our ability to network and meet new people.
However, what I would say is that it has shone a light on the power of technology. I was surprised by the speed of business evolution as we moved from in-person meetings to video conferencing. Meeting new people over video-link is much more normalised than it was pre-pandemic.
Collaboration is the lifeblood of innovation. Through sharing ideas we can all achieve great things. The last year has shown me that friendships can be forged across borders without needing to always travel. I have been honoured to have the opportunity to join many creative discussions in the last 12 months with incredibly smart people across MENA and other countries. Our region’s future is looking very bright if we can transform our ideas into a reality.
Which sectors or aspects of the regional financial markets will see the greatest advancements in technology this year?
I think 2022 could be the year of the dawn of the multi-purpose ‘super-app’ model here. Single platforms can improve the customer user experience in terms of speed and accessibility. For businesses, they are also ‘stickier’, which can reduce customer acquisition and marketing costs. With this in mind, we could start to see rapid transformation in the retail sector in particular. In the broader financial services space, I think we will see growing technology advancements in voice commerce, reg tech, digital assets, trading apps, and fraud detection and prevention.
In the light of the past year, what are your plans for 2022?
Growth and collaboration with local partners who share our bold vision for the future of payments and would benefit from accessing GPS’ award-winning API-first payments technology that enables innovative card programmes for the world’s leading fintechs, digital challenger banks, and embedded finance providers.
Following our $400 million investment announcement in January 2022, we will soon be expanding across the MENA region and introducing our award-winning GPS Apex platform to the MENA fintech ecosystem, giving access to next generation payments technology including expense management, B2B payments, crypto, lending and credit, including Buy Now Pay Later propositions, digital banking, FX, remittance, open banking and more.