It is safe to say that 2020 will go down in the history books for all the wrong reasons – a global pandemic that has ravished most nations and left a trail of problems behind it. However, behind the dominant COVID headlines, the world has continued to evolve, and one incredibly positive and highly historic achievement was the peace and normalization agreement between Israel and UAE in September 2020 – The Abraham Accords.
Anyone with even the broadest understanding of the Middle East region will know how politically, socially, and economically important this agreement is. A complex combination of political and religious factors has made it particularly difficult for Israeli and UAE people and businesses to interact in the past, despite the obvious potential benefits for everyone in doing so. The Abraham Accords have made real-world progress in addressing this issue and have provided huge scope in terms of potential commercial possibilities – something which Shield has already embraced.
In a year of canceled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the GITEX 2020 show (Gulf Information Technology Exhibition), held in December, was a notable exception. Held under the most scrutinized of health protection procedures, GITEX 2020 in Dubai gave visitors a long-postponed chance to experience the latest in technical innovation at one of the largest annual tech summits.
I was proud to be one of over 200 entrepreneurs and business people from Israel to visit Dubai for networking with our Gulf counterparts. The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) and the Israel Export & International Cooperation Institute (IEI) jointly presented the inaugural ‘UAE-Israel Future Digital Economic Summit’ at the 40th anniversary of GITEX, and Shield was a key part of the Beyond Business Fintech Delegation, led by Bank Hapoalim, one of Israel’s leading banks.
As the only major tech and start-up show in the world to take place in 2020, GITEX presented an exciting opportunity to meet with potential customers and investors, to present the best and brightest technology and innovation, and to create ongoing partnerships in a shared transformative digital future.
A key market
Having personally attended the event on behalf of Shield, I was highly impressed by the caliber of visitors and delegations I met in Dubai, along with the friendly enthusiasm for adopting Israeli technology to aid their business growth but most importantly, to first create true partnerships and friendship. UAE has had outstanding economic growth and its banking sector is a powerhouse of international trading. Figures from KPMG suggest a growth of 13.9% in net profit among the top ten UAE banks over the last few years. However, like banking sectors worldwide, UAE faces the need to digitalize its customer experience, services, and products in an age of hyper-connectivity. The Israeli FinTech and RegTech sector is highly experienced in delivering the best cutting-edge solutions, which have been proven time and again in markets worldwide.
As well as the benefits to customers in UAE, this new détente is equally exciting for Israeli providers. Shield has its sights set firmly on providing our complete solution to as many customers in as many markets as possible. The lifting of these political barriers adds an exciting and potentially highly profitable, reliable, and valuable new market which is also within easy traveling distance for Israeli providers.
Steps towards something bigger
When you consider that the Abraham Accords were only signed in September, it was remarkable to see such a flurry of activity from both sides so quickly. The enthusiasm of businesses, investors, and start-ups has helped to pave the way for strong and open ties between Israel and UAE.
This is a historic juncture for both nations, and hopes are that this opening up of relations in the region will continue to grow. Certainly, in the banking sector, there is a very clear potential synergy between providers and customers in terms of adopting the technology. I had some exciting discussions in Dubai, proof that working together really does benefit everyone involved.
It is a little ironic that the Abraham Accords have opened relations between nation-states at a time when the pandemic has brought down the practical barriers on many physical interactions. However, in our particular case, RegTech solutions are enabling safer, stronger, and more transparent online banking at a time when it is needed most. I have great optimism that these initial steps are the first towards greater cooperation, trust, and mutual success in the future.