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Saudi Arabia leads adoption of AI in financial services closely followed by UAE, says Finastra global survey – PRWire

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Saudi Arabia leads adoption of AI in financial services closely followed by UAE, says Finastra global survey

·       Saudi Arabia ranks highest and the UAE second highest globally for AI adoption in the last 12 months; majority of leaders also interested in Gen AI

·       90% of respondents in the UAE and 91% in Saudi Arabia believe Open Finance enables a greater range of financial services, yet more support from regulators is needed

PRWire: Dubai, UAE and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – Finastra’s annual global survey reveals that despite economic constraints, financial institutions in the UAE and Saudi Arabia are among the global leaders in investment in artificial intelligence (AI), Banking as a Service (BaaS) and embedded finance.

The ‘Financial Services: State of the Nation Survey 2023’ finds that nearly 9 in 10 (87%) institutions in the UAE and nearly two thirds (64%) in Saudi Arabia say the economic climate has constrained their technology investments. Compared to the global average of 78%, the UAE has felt the pinch particularly hard, yet sentiment in both countries remains positive. 78% of firms in the UAE and 72% in Saudi Arabia expect investments to return in full before the end of H1 2024, both higher than the global average (69%).

Despite this, the survey reveals that both regions have emerged as global leaders in AI. 55% of respondents in Saudi Arabia, the highest globally, and 45% in the UAE, the second highest, say they have deployed or improved AI in the last 12 months. The UAE shows a significant uptick in AI adoption from 25% in 2022, and both regions are notably above the global average of 37%. Financial institutions are setting their sights on generative AI (Gen AI) in particular. 88% of decision-makers in Saudi Arabia and 86% in the UAE say they are interested in the technology, with 27% and 34% respectively having already incorporated it in some form, both higher than the global average of 26%.

Respondents have differing views about the priority use cases for Gen AI. In the UAE, institutions state automating manual or repetitive tasks, such as document checking or documenting code functionality, as the top benefit (43%), followed by collecting, processing or analyzing data for environmental, social and governance (ESG), such as to make investment or lending decisions (40%). The latter is the top benefit for 47% of firms in Saudi Arabia, followed by enhancing IT operations, such as process automation or infrastructure optimization (36%).

The research, conducted from August to September 2023, canvassed the opinions of 956 professionals at financial institutions across France, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, UK, US and Vietnam.

Other insights include:

·       UAE and Saudi Arabia lead on BaaS adoption: nearly half (49%) of institutions in the UAE, an uptick from 41% in 2022, and 53% in Saudi Arabia have improved or deployed BaaS in the last 12 months, higher than the global average of 48%. The most advanced use case in the UAE is cited as FX as a Service, while embedded lending to SMEs is the most popular in Saudi Arabia.

·       Open Finance welcomed, but more support needed: 9 in 10 respondents in the UAE believe Open Finance gives consumers access to a greater range of financial services, however, a similar proportion (91%) believe more support from regulators and industry bodies is required to make Open Finance a success. These figures are similar in Saudi Arabia, at 89% and 88% respectively.

·       Banking is about more than just finance: Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) leaders in the UAE and slightly more (92%) in Saudi Arabia say it is important for financial services to support ESG initiatives and actively seek to improve in this space. The majority also agree that financial literacy and supporting vulnerable audiences should be a key focus (88% and 90% respectively).

·       Leaders are excited about the speed of change: When asked about whether they are excited about the pace of technological and cultural change in financial services personally, for their financial institution and for the wider industry, both regions scored highly in all areas. In the UAE, these figures are 90%, 88% and 80% respectively, while the same is true for 93%, 90% and 92% for institutions in Saudi.

“Despite the challenging economic climate, it’s clear from our research that investment in AI, BaaS, and embedded finance remain key priorities for financial services organizations over the next 12 months,” said Simon Paris, Chief Executive Officer at Finastra. “This is particularly prevalent in the UAE and Saudi Arabia where institutions have emerged as some of the global leaders in technological innovation – echoing last year’s findings in the UAE – showing great promise for the future of financial services in these regions. We share the industry’s ongoing commitment to ESG initiatives, collaboration around Open Finance, and excitement in using advanced technologies like AI to help deliver on the opportunities ahead.”

Access the full report and findings here.

Survey Methodology

·       A total of 956 professionals (at managerial level) in financial institutions and banks across the US, UK, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and the UAE were surveyed. These financial institutions represent a gross total of around USD$33 billion in turnover over the last 12 months, employ approximately 2.4 million staff and have approximately 240 million client / customer / member relationships.

·       As a result of rounding up percentage results, the answers to some questions might not always add up exactly to 100%. Respondents were also able to select more than one answer for some questions.

·       Comparative analysis was made from results of a similar survey run by Finastra in August 2022 which was also conducted online amongst financial institutions and banks across the same markets, except for Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

·       The research was conducted by Savanta via an online panel (August to September 2023).

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