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Growing adoption of ICT-enabled banking services to help cushion impact of global financial crisis in GCC

EastNets, a leading global provider of compliance and payments solutions and services, has announced that increasing e-banking activities will continue to be an impetus for growth across the Gulf as secure electronic services are fast becoming crucial banking components in light of growing inter-GCC transactions as well as transatlantic integration with major economies such as the US and EU. EastNets revealed that it has accordingly fortified its product portfolio as part of its growth strategy for 2009, focusing on delivering enhanced online solutions for the financial, corporate and government sectors.

A Madar Research report pointed out that in the UAE Switch alone, which routes local, regional and international ATM transactions over a single network, financial transactions carried out electronically increased by 16 per cent in 2007, while the value of transactions carried with Gulf switches through the UAE Switch increased by up to 12.46 per cent from USD 96 million in 2006 to USD 108 million in 2007. The report also revealed that technology will remain a top priority among Gulf banks, with an emphasis on ICT systems upgrade, network expansion, and the enhancement of ICT-based services such as e-banking and other electronic banking platforms.

“EastNets has been deeply studying regional and global trends as part of our strategy to ensure the highest level of reliability and security in our products and services. We believe that enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the dynamics that affect the regional market will enable us to remain highly responsive to the needs of our customers, particularly in this time of unprecedented global economic challenges," said Hazim Mulhim, CEO, EastNets.

Madar Research has emphasised that increased competition has further boosted the pursuit of technology among banks as ICT-based banking services such as e-banking partly cover the need to establish more branches. In the UAE alone, Madar Research pointed out that the total number of electronic banking service units rose 83 per cent from 24 in 2006 to 44 in 2008, while more than 40 per cent of all domestic financial transactions are done online, as compared to just 10 per cent in 2005.

In line with its strategy to offer products and services that support the development of ICT-enabled banking services in the region, EastNets launched UniRisX eInsurance Service in the UAE and inaugurated the en.finmeX, a new hosted portal that provides online solutions for the financial, corporate and government sectors, as part of its successful growth initiatives in 2008. Furthermore, EastNets signed a strategic partnership with International Finance Corp. for the enhancement of technology software development in the Middle East, and sealed a major distributor agreement with Counterparty Link to carry counterparty and entity data.

“Although the global financial crisis has affected several financial institutions, we believe that the region's long-term growth prospects remain strong because of sound fundamentals and judicious technology investments. In this regard, EastNets' growth strategy for 2009 will focus on supporting the region's growing adoption of ICT-enabled services and introducing products and services that extend the electronic banking capabilities of our clients," concluded Mulhim.