Apple Pay is demonstrated at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California in this October 16, 2014 file photo, Apple’s year-old mobile-payments service is expanding to more countries, banks and merchants, as it faces growing competition. Image Credit: AP

The UAE’s banking sector is about to take a giant digital leap with the launch of the Emirates Digital Wallet, which is scheduled to take place within the next few months.

The first-of-its-kind wallet, developed and implemented under the aegis of the UAE Banks Federation (UBF) and fully supported by the country’s banking sector, marks a true milestone in the country’s push towards a cashless future.

It is set to dramatically change the way we pay for things, providing consumers and businesses a simple and convenient way to receive, store and transfer money.

The launch of Emirates Digital Wallet coincides with a phase of breakneck innovation in the banking sector, with the UBF, working closely with the Central Bank, setting initiatives to increase digitisation of banking services and contribute to the UAE’s Smart Government initiative.

Staying relevant and competitive

Individual banks are also stepping on the innovation pedal, driven by a need to keep up with the digital curve in order to stay relevant and competitive and also by a recognition that digital technologies can add real value to industry and society.

Banks in the UAE are setting aside huge sums — up to Dh500 million in some cases — to drive forward the digital transformation of their products and processes.

Many of these banks are also setting up dedicated digital incubation centres as part of their strategy to speed up the development of next-generation digital banking services and create a sustainable innovation culture.

The trend of mainstream retail banks opening digital banking centers is also on the rise.

Dedicated e-banking centres can help make life easier for customers by enabling them to complete common banking transactions and service requirements instantly, while giving them greater control over their transactions.

In the last couple of years, we have even seen robots being introduced in bank branches to assist customers with their needs, reflecting the extent to which banks are exploring the potential of artificial intelligence and digital technologies in making banking simpler and more convenient for customers.


As the shift from internet to mobile banking gathers pace, we see that players in the banking industry are placing greater emphasis on improving mobile banking security and user experience.

Banks today take a more proactive approach to meeting customer expectations around speed, value and convenience, and are channelling significant effort toward equipping their mobile banking apps with advanced and innovative features, ranging from biometric banking and voice-activated payments to empowering users with the ability to control — via their mobile phones — how, when and where their cards may be used.

Blockchain technology is another area where we are witnessing tremendous innovation.

More significantly, banks in the UAE are using the power of technology to promote social advancement, with the use of voice-activation technology to enable visually impaired customers to easily conduct transactions on ATMs only the latest example of how innovation in the banking sector is driving inclusion.

Boost to UAE

A report released recently by the European Financial Management Association (EFMA) on the retail banking sector in the Middle East observes that the UAE has all the advantages — and drivers — to be successful in the digital age.

Listing the country’s young, digital-savvy population and its new regulatory framework for electronic payment systems as key elements driving innovation, the report identifies Dubai as a hotbed for blockchain innovation and makes laudatory mention of the fact that the emirate has a clearly-defined public services blockchain migration plan until 2020.

The launch of Emirates Digital Wallet is thus a continuation of this ongoing tradition of banking innovation, and has the potential to introduce a society-wide cash transformation to digital.

It will provide a strong boost to the UAE’s effort to build an inclusive digital payments ecosystem that will benefit all stakeholders including consumers, businesses and banks, and set the path for the country’s transition to a cashless future.


— Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of UAE Banks Federation