Davos 2023: Gulf's middle-class investors growth a 'bright light' for BNY Mellon

Rise of FinTech has created exciting opportunity for the US investment bank, says chief growth officer Akash Shah

There is a 'sweet spot right now' for the Gulf region and 'that's pretty exciting', said BNY Mellon's chief growth officer Akash Shah. Bloomberg
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The rise of the middle-class investors, driven by access to financial technology, has made the Gulf region one of the global “bright lights” for BNY Mellon this year.

Akash Shah, chief growth officer at the US financial institution, said providing securities services, including data and analytics, a wealth market that is beginning to see more middle-class investors thanks to FinTech, which is a growing area of focus, and asset management, were the main businesses exciting BNY Mellon in the region.

Of the above, “one and two are the really new, super fast growing [businesses]”, said Mr Shah, in Davos, during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in the Swiss mountain resort.

“Everyone from the regulator, and the government and private sector is all coming together because they want to build new standards, new infrastructure at the same time.”

There is a “sweet spot right now” for the Gulf region and “that's pretty exciting”, he said.

“In the past, it was foreign technology coming into the region, maybe a little bit domesticated, but broadly, it was external to that … now there's a lot more home-grown talent and a lot more home-grown FinTechs … eventually, that will be for much broader export.

“It's a different moment than maybe 10 to 20 years ago.”

The FinTech sector led both funding and the number of deals in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan and Turkey last year, Magnitt data found. It reached $2.25 billion across 351 deals in 2022.

“Now you want to have the best people and you want clear regulatory frameworks, and you want access to capital. And that means right now, it feels like there's a convergence in the Gulf,” Mr Shah said.

In July, BNY Mellon and Emirates NBD announced a strategic alliance aimed at accelerating the growth of local capital markets.

Akash Shah, chief growth officer at BNY Mellon and Ahmed Al Qassim, group head of corporate and institutional banking of Emirates NBD. Photo: BNY Mellon

It is a competitive landscape in the region, however, which means "this year is really about hitting the hard accelerator and getting some of the things to market … particularly in the data infrastructure space”, he said.

“We hope to have some of our other partnerships with some of the sovereign wealth funds announced over the next few months as well,” Mr Shah said.

Risks to the outlook for Gulf economies will always include the correlation to oil prices but the impact of geopolitical and economic concerns elsewhere in the world, such as in Europe, would likely not be felt in the short term, he said.

“People will look for the soft landing places and my impression is that the Gulf is probably still that place, or amongst those places,” Mr Shah said.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 4:30 AM