Wio launch
Wio is among the handful of digital-only banks that will launch in the UAE. Its shareholders include ADQ, e&, FAB and Alpha Dhabi. Pictured here are Salem Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Board, and Jayesh Patel, CEO, Wio Bank. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Wio Bank, the region’s first platform bank, was officially launched in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

The bank, which launched its app Wio Business earlier this month on September 5, aims to “transform banking operating models towards a more digital future”.

Video: Virendra Saklani | Editing: Irish Belleza | Reporting: Nivetha Dayanand

Platform banks not just offer digital banking services, but also partner with other digital companies to offer services in digital apps that customers use.

Wio Business

The app, which will provide banking services to start-ups, freelancers, and SMEs, was developed in collaboration with customers and built to get SMEs up and running quickly by providing banking tools to manage their business. It already has over 1,000 SMEs on board.

“This we’re super excited about because this allows the democratisation of finance, where you can get banking services to a large array of startups and fintech,” said Jayesh Patel, CEO, Wio Bank. “Our operating model is the next operating model for banks, which is much broader than the holds of the banks that they pay right now.”

Key features of Wio Business – available for a monthly subscription fee of Dh99 - include managing and tracking expenses easily, simplifying savings for VAT, managing receivables through invoicing services, and accepting payments through links.

“Wio Business was launched as a beta version earlier this year and has found very good acceptance and advocacy with early adopters, evidenced by a net promoter score (NPS) of 73,” said Patel. “We worked with about 800 customers for three months to get their feedback to tweak the app,”

Wio launch
Wio wants to reshape the way UAE’s consumers do their banking. And digital is the way Wio will do it.

Banking solutions

The new bank will provide solutions in three areas - Digital Banking apps, Embedded Finance and Banking-as-a-Service solutions.

“Wio as a platform does three big things - one is we work on the digital bank apps that everyone else (market competitors such as Liv by Emirates NBD, Masreq NEO and Zand) is working on,” said Patel. “We focus on making it easier and enabling their businesses with our app.”

“The second big thing we are doing is embedded finance - where we look at ways of taking banking to where the customers are. And the last thing is banking as a service”

What is platform banking?
Platform banking not just offers digital banking services, but partners with other digital companies to offer services in those digital apps that customers use. They achieve this through embedded finance, which is more of a customized solution with a partner. And the second one is banking as a service, which is a more generic banking service available to the customer.

“So what ends up happening in simple words, bank launches, its apps that consumers always accessible, and secondly, it becomes a provider of technology services with the heart of a bank,” said Patel.

Digital banking apps

In the UAE, SME digital banking is still in its nascence with customers largely relying on brick-and-mortar branches to open accounts and carry out business transactions. This is where Wio will step in and launch a range of digital banking apps for individual and business customers. These will offer easy and quick access to banking services, insights and tools to manage their business.

“We’re creating a platform that’s going to make banking seamless, intuitive, and intelligent,” said Salem Al Nuaimi, Chairman of the Board, Wio Bank. “Our vision is to simplify the services we need to accelerate the growth of the digital businesses and enable the economy as digitization ambitions are being achieved.”

Embedded Finance

The embedded finance market is estimated to grow hundreds of billions globally over the next decade. With this feature, Wio aims to take banking where customers already engage and reduce the need for customers to go to bank channels to access banking services. Wio will play an active role to embed customized financial services with leading digital players in the region, thereby enhancing the digital economy.

Banking-as-a-Service solutions (BaaS)

BaaS allows non-banking digital businesses to integrate and white label financial services in their applications. Wio will partner with digital businesses to offer its ready-made and modular BaaS solutions to enable them to provide banking products and services to their customers.

Future plans

The newly launched platform bank will expand in the region, once they have got their metrics right, hinted the chief. “We believe once we’ve established our base here, we’ve got our services to customers right,” said Patel. “We will look at expanding our services into other markets. We believe the region has an amazing opportunity.”

The bank will also expand its target market from SMEs to the retail sector in coming months. “Now as we work through this slowly, we’re going to start working on retail, and you’ll start seeing it sometime next year,” said Patel. “But right now our focus is on the SMEs right now.”

Wio is 65 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund ADQ and Alpha Dhabi, 25 per cent by e& (formerly known as Etisalat) and 10 per cent by First Abu Dhabi Bank. The UAE central bank in February gave it initial approval to begin operations.

How does Wio work?
“So if you look at our SME, which is the first product from our digital banking offering, you can open an account digitally. The process is simple - we are integrating with the identity and source of documents.”

“Once you open your account, you can do all the things that other accounts give you. There’s a lot more to it. You manage your business better through invoicing through virtual cards, savings bills.”

“That is one individual SME now you expand this to all the SMEs and suddenly you start contributing a lot. So that’s just one part of the process through embedded finance and banking as a service. We are opening up the opportunity for banking innovation to all the digital companies out there. And as more companies digitize and new companies innovate in financial services, the economy will grow.”

- Jayesh Patel of Wio