ADQ, Alpha Dhabi, Etisalat and FAB unveil $626m digital banking platform Wio

Central Bank of the UAE has granted in-principle approval for the lender that will initially focus on small and medium-size businesses

Young woman is paying in the cafe using her mobile phone. Getty Images
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Abu Dhabi holding company ADQ received in-principle approval from the Central Bank of the UAE to launch Wio, a new digital banking platform.

The total invested capital in the Abu Dhabi-based Wio is Dh2.3 billion ($626 million) plus “in-kind contribution”, ADQ said in a statement on Friday.

The digital banking platform’s primary shareholders are ADQ and investments holding company Alpha Dhabi, which hold a controlling stake of 65 per cent. Etisalat holds 25 per cent, while First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE’s largest lender by assets, has the remaining 10 per cent, according to the statement.

“As part of our efforts to future-proof Abu Dhabi’s economy, we are committed to enhancing the financial services sector,” Mohamed Al Suwaidi, chief executive of ADQ, said.

“By delivering secure, transparent and seamless access to a cutting-edge, customer-centric digital banking platform, Wio’s unique business model will further strengthen the UAE’s digital economy that is already supported by robust infrastructure and progressive regulations.”

The rise of FinTech companies, an increasingly digital-savvy consumer base and a jump in digital services have forced banks globally to invest in digitisation.

The Covid-19 pandemic, which led to lockdowns and social distancing around the world, hastened the move into digital services as consumers switched to cashless payments and online shopping.

Digital-only banks are not a new concept in the UAE. In the first half of 2017, Emirates NBD launched Liv. bank, which is aimed at millennials. Mashreq, Dubai’s oldest lender, also unveiled Mashreq Neo in the same year.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, the biggest Sharia-compliant lender in the emirate, launched a digital-only bank called Amwali last year to tap into the UAE’s growing segment of tech-savvy youths.

However, independent digital banks are also entering the market, including Al Maryah Community Bank, which secured a licence from the UAE Central Bank in April last year.

This was followed by the launch of the UAE’s first independent digital bank, Zand, which caters to retail and corporate clients.

Quote
Our Dh850m investment in Wio is part of the strategy we announced last December to invest in promising sectors within and outside the UAE
Hamad Al Ameri, managing director and chief executive of Alpha Dhabi

Wio will enhance Abu Dhabi’s reputation as a global financial services centre at the leading edge of digital banking, FAB said.

Led by globally experienced FinTech experts, banking professionals and technology specialists, Wio will offer customers in the UAE a fully digital banking choice, the lender added.

“Our Dh850m investment in Wio is part of the strategy we announced last December to invest in promising sectors within and outside the UAE,” Hamad Al Ameri, managing director and chief executive of Alpha Dhabi, said.

The FinTech industry is a key driver of digital transformation in the UAE and has grown exponentially due to changing consumer payment behaviour, as well as new tech-driven offerings, according to Khalifa Al Shamsi, chief executive of Etisalat Consumer Digital.

“Customers are increasingly adopting contactless payments in physical stores as well as using fully digital financial products. Building on our FinTech portfolio, the Wio partnership is part of our strategy to meet growing consumer demands with 360-degree products and services that enhance their daily digital lives,” Mr Al Shamsi added.

ADQ, set up in 2018, holds government stakes in companies spanning key sectors of Abu Dhabi’s non-oil economy, including utilities, tourism and hospitality, aviation, transportation, logistics, industrial, real estate, media, healthcare, agri-foods and financial services.

Its portfolio includes Abu Dhabi Power Corporation, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, Abu Dhabi Airports, Abu Dhabi Ports, Etihad Rail, Seha, insurer Daman, media companies Abu Dhabi Media and twofour54, and Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, among others.

FAB was formed following a merger of First Gulf Bank and National Bank of Abu Dhabi in 2017.

Updated: February 24, 2022, 7:49 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS
MORE FROM THE NATIONAL