Agility applies for licence to set up Kuwait's first digital bank

The move is part of a wider push among Gulf countries to set up digital banks in response to changing consumer preferences

Kuwait-based Agility is pivoting towards digital banking services. AFP
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Kuwait-based Agility, one of the largest logistics companies in the Mena region, has applied for a licence to establish a digital bank as it pivots towards digital banking services in response to changing customer behaviour.

The move is part of the company's "ongoing focus on digital initiatives", vice chairman and chief executive Tarek Al Essa said on Tuesday in a statement to the Dubai Financial Market, where its shares are traded.

"Agility has requested a licence to establish a digital bank but there is nothing material at the moment," he said.

The company's comments came in response to an August 23 report by Kuwait's Al Rai newspaper on Agility's plans to set up Kuwait's first digital bank in line with FinTech developments in local and global markets.

The newspaper said that Agility's licence application includes an emphasis on technical aspects, cyber security, operational risks and measures to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

Al Rai's sources indicated that the company has yet to determine the exact capital required to establish a digital bank in the local market, which is subject to the conditions of the Central Bank of Kuwait.

While traditional banks are offering more digital services, there is a wave of new independent digital banks entering Gulf markets.

One of these is Al Maryah Community Bank, which secured a licence from the UAE Central Bank after the launch of the emirates' first independent digital bank, Zand, which caters to retail and corporate clients.

ADQ, the conglomerate that owns Abu Dhabi government stakes in a range of businesses, last year revealed plans to set up a digital bank in the UAE using a legacy banking licence held by First Abu Dhabi Bank.

About 87 per cent of UAE residents are willing to open an account with a branchless, online bank, according to a Boston Consulting Group survey.

The rise of FinTech companies, an increasingly smartphone-savvy consumer base and a sharp increase in digital services have forced banks worldwide to increasingly invest in digitisation and reduce the number of branches.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which led to lockdowns and social distancing around the world, has further hastened the pivot to digital services across industries.

Agility reported a 503.7 per cent surge in net profit in the second quarter of 2021, amid a broader recovery in regional and global economies.

Net profit for the three-month period to the end of June grew to 38.6m Kuwaiti dinars ($128.5m), compared to the same period last year.

Updated: August 24, 2021, 11:25 AM