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RIYADH: Saudi banks are betting big on the digital future.

In the first three months of 2022, 13 bank branches and 81 ATMs were closed in a further sign of the growing digitization of the sector, data from the Saudi Central Bank reveals.

The COVID-19 pandemic, together with the Financial Sector Development Program included in Saudi Vision 2030, affected the banking and payment processing industries and led to a wave of digitization that aims to increase cashless transactions.

This year’s decline is a continuation of an earlier trend.

The statistics from the central bank, also known as SAMA, show that the number of bank branches declined by 124 — 6 percent of the total — between 2017 and 2021.

ATMs saw a ten percent drop over the same period.

On the other hand, Point of Sale transactions increased 15 percent in terms of sales value in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the final three months of 2021.

The value of sales using mobile phones grew 13.6 percent over the same period, compared to a 3.6 percent growth for cards.

E-commerce sales using Mada cards rose 22 percent in the first quarter of this year.

The quarter-on-quarter rise is in line with the trend over the last four years, which has seen the total value of POS transactions and e-commerce increase by 120 percent and 380 percent, respectively.

Fintech Saudi

SAMA, sought to diversify the financial sector by launching “Fintech Saudi” in April 2018, which visualized Saudi Arabia as a fintech hub in the coming years.

With the pandemic abating, a new crop of fintech companies is heralding the winds of change in the way businesses are run in Saudi Arabia.

From facilitating cashless payments to offering financial data analytics to providing loans, these firms are coming out with simpler and customized alternatives to traditional banking.

According to a Fintech Saudi report, fintech transaction values between 2017 and 2019 increased by over 18 percent year-on-year, reaching over $20 billion in 2019.

With an increasing number of first-generation entrepreneurs competing with large financial institutions, the report stated that the transaction value will surpass $33 billion by 2023.

Additionally, there is also ample room for growth, with the average investment deal size at $2.7 million compared to the global average of $7.3 million, the report revealed.

Also noteworthy is the drastic change in the financial industry, which was earlier governed by a complex set of rules and regulations to ensure monetary safety. Fintech Saudi has tackled the problem by taking the bull by the horns.

The financial authority is now supporting these startups by walking them through the regulations and providing a more straightforward way to obtain an operating license from SAMA.

The result is the Kingdom witnessed a massive jump in venture capital investments in the fintech sector, hitting 16 deals in the first eight months of 2021, totaling $157.2 million. In 2021, it witnessed a 37-percent rise in new fintech launches over the previous year.

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