Emirates NBD, DIFC and Microsoft launch accelerator programme for metaverse start-ups

Initiative aims to transform future of banking and boost customer experience in digital economy

Emirates NBD is looking forward to becoming a launchpad for innovative financial services in the metaverse. Pawan Singh / The National
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Emirates NBD, Dubai's biggest lender by assets, has joined forces with Dubai International Financial Centre’s FinTech Hive and the US technology company Microsoft to launch a 10-week global accelerator programme for metaverse start-ups.

The programme aims to transform the future of banking and improve customer experience in the digital economy.

It positions the bank as a “leader in the next phase of banking innovation in alignment with the Dubai Metaverse Strategy”, which aims to make the emirate one of the world's top 10 metaverse economies, supporting more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030 and adding $4 billion to Dubai’s economy in five years.

“Attracting innovative start-ups is crucial to Dubai's ambition to be an international leader in the metaverse,” said Marwan Hadi, executive vice president and head of retail banking at Emirates NBD.

“With our entry into the metaverse, we seek to reimagine financial services using extended reality and create compelling new propositions for our customers in the new metaverse economy,” Mr Hadi said.

About 88 per cent of consumers in the UAE have used at least one emerging payment method in the past year as the move towards a digital economy accelerates, a report released earlier this month said.

Nearly 40 per cent of UAE residents use a smartphone mobile wallet, 29 per cent use buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) services, 20 per cent use cryptocurrency and 18 per cent use a payment-enabled wearable tech device, MasterCard’s New Payments Index 2022 found.

With about 94 per cent of all financial transactions and requests conducted outside the branches, Emirates NBD said it is exploring new technologies to expand its digital footprint and create immersive experiences.

It is working to build its expertise across three key areas — building the technology stack to enable the shift to 3D, creating virtual worlds to augment the customer experience and enabling a decentralised payment infrastructure for customers to create, monetise, buy and sell digital assets and services.

Under the new accelerator programme, the DIFC FinTech Hive will evaluate and match Emirates NBD with start-ups offering products on the value creation, experience and technology stack required for the metaverse.

“This step reaffirms our commitment to support Dubai’s ambition to be among the top 10 metaverse economies in the world,” said Raja Al Mazrouei, executive vice president of DIFC FinTech Hive.

“At DIFC FinTech Hive, we continue to adopt latest technologies to keep pace with the rising momentum in the global digital space.”

The accelerator programme will culminate in a demo day at Gulf Information Technology Exhibition in Dubai, where shortlisted participants will pitch their ideas to create engaging experiences for the bank’s customers.

“In the metaverse, where physical and digital worlds come together to create an entirely new platform layer, we have an exciting opportunity to create transformative solutions that completely revolutionise the journeys and experiences of consumers,” said Naim Yazbeck, general manager at Microsoft UAE.

“We look forward to working with these innovators [start-ups] and helping them to realise this potential over the course of the programme,” Mr Yazbeck said.

Updated: August 23, 2022, 5:56 AM