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Abdulla Qassem

UAE, DUBAI - Finance

Homegrown Expertise

Chairman, Network International


Abdulla Qassem is the Group COO of Emirates NBD and Chairman of Network International and Tanfeeth, both subsidiaries of the Emirates NBD Group. He studied Computer Science & Business Administration at St. Edwards University, Austin, Texas, and began his career at Emirates Bank in 1988.

"Our strategic growth plan and roadmap revolve around innovation."

How would you describe the role that Network International has played as a partner in the development of the payment service industry of the UAE?

The vision behind Network International was to create a homegrown company with expert capabilities to service the growing demands of the financial sector in the UAE and beyond. With a strong management team, in-house expertise, and by leveraging next-generation technology, Network International has carved a niche for itself as an innovator in the payments arena within a short space of time. The company has been instrumental in transforming the payments sector in the UAE by providing the infrastructure for this industry to flourish. We are today the largest payments processor and acquirer in MENA, and the second largest in the MEA region. In addition to payments processing, nearly 60 banks across 27 countries in the MEA region use Network International for credit card issuer processing. We also offer end-to-end ATM services to several major banks in the region.

What role does innovation play in the creation of successful products and services to meet the needs of the market?

Our strategic growth plan and roadmap revolve around innovation. This may not just take the form of a new product or technology, but also be about adapting a technology that works well elsewhere and bringing it first to market. When it comes to payment innovation in particular, it could be about rethinking the business model, processes, product, or the way in which interaction with customers and potential customers takes place. Our aim is to be, in every sense, the leading innovative payments service provider in the emerging economies.

“Our strategic growth plan and roadmap revolve around innovation.”

What challenges do you foresee Network International facing as it continues to expand throughout the MENA region?

The payments industry around the world continues to witness exciting developments and the Middle East and Africa markets in particular are teeming with opportunities. Although this market is one of the smallest regions in terms of a number of payment categories, such as payment volume and the number of cards in circulation, this could change as the region’s payment infrastructure becomes more developed. As far as Network International is concerned, we have been able to effectively leverage our excellent performance and reputation in the UAE to tap into key markets across the region. Of course, as we pursue our aggressive growth and expansion strategy we do have to overcome our share of challenges, for instance making the necessary adjustments based on the various regulatory frameworks in different countries. However, thanks to our world-class infrastructure and highly skilled and experienced manpower, we have been able to maintain our leadership position in almost all of the markets we are present in.

What is Network International’s top-line growth strategy going forward?

Our vision for the mid- to long-term is for Network International to become the leading provider of innovative payment solutions across the Middle East and entire Africa region. This top-line goal underlines our growth strategy. In terms of geographical expansion, while in the UAE and most of the Middle East we have been going from strength to strength, we have also been steadily building our presence in the high-potential Sub-Saharan and North Africa markets. On a day-to-day basis, the company is focused on addressing client needs through a proactive approach, aligned with the delivery of consistent, high-quality service. Simultaneously, we will continue to develop world-class products through R&D, while never missing an opportunity to expand into new business lines. In addition, our underlying goal will be to consistently create value for our stakeholders and deliver sustainable competitive advantages by optimally playing our role as a technology partner, business enabler, and provider of innovative payment solutions.

How do you see the payment solutions industry evolving in the Middle East going forward?

The financial sector in the UAE has seen rapid evolution in recent years. We are witnessing increasing innovation among banks and financial institutions to meet the needs of sophisticated tech-savvy customers. As a result, solutions providers like us are keenly focused on creating the right infrastructure and platforms to enable these digital solutions. Payments migrate based upon customer convenience, from cash and checks that were physically handed over, and now to online payments. We have already moved to the next stage, where physical access to a computer is not necessary and customers have the option of on-the-go payments solutions via their smart devices. Identifying these next-generation payment trends and leveraging technology to increase customer convenience will shape the future of the payments industry. We will also see increasing innovation and new technologies offered to customers at the point of delivery, rather than at the point of sale.

© The Business Year – April 2015



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