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Banking, Financial Services & Insurance

Building One of the First Neobanks in the Middle East

Building One of the First Neobanks in the Middle East

Success Story

As more consumers go digital, only the truly innovative financial companies who keep up with consumers’ changing demands can disrupt the market. To serve the increasing number of users in the Gulf who prefer to bank through a smart device in the most personalized way, our client expanded their business beyond their core investment offering. To this end, the company, a technology-driven financial services provider, partnered with Scalefocus to create one of the first neobanks in the region and deliver a customer-centric, digital-only banking experience.

One of the first neobanks in the
Middle East

Internal, local & international payment features

centric UI/UX on
any device

The Client

Our client is a leading Middle Eastern financial services company giving investors and traders tools to capitalize on their funds via a feature-rich digital platform. Through a single login, traders get access to regional exchanges and to more than 20 international financial markets, creating a diversified portfolio of assets. They can choose from multiple mutual fund providers and make informed decisions with the help of our client’s expert advisory services. In 2021, the company initiated the expansion of their core business to focus on providing high-quality online banking to users in the Gulf. The goal is to meet the needs of customers who prefer fully digital offerings but are still majorly underserved by financial institutions in the region.

The Challenge

The client had identified a market demand for a product focusing on consumers who prefer digital banking but don’t have their needs adequately met by local players. To satisfy this emerging market demand, they had to extend their offering from a financial services company into a fully-digital bank. The project was supported by one of the region’s leading government innovation programs as part of a long-term strategy to place the country on the map of tech leaders in the Middle East and beyond. However, the client lacked the in-house technical expertise to organize a large-scale IT development process and could not scale up quickly enough.

After an extensive selection process and detailed vetting procedures, the company partnered with Scalefocus to help them build one of the first neobanks in the region. Our FinTech and delivery expertise coupled with a highly agile development approach made us a qualified technology partner that would rise to the challenge. We collaborated with the client from the initial business consultancy stage and later delivered high-quality advisory and development services.

The Solution

To ensure maximum collaboration and transparency across a very large and scaling team, we adopted the Spotify agile model. It created strong solidarity within the teams, a high sense of ownership and responsibility and reduced the typical blocking interdependencies in a large-scale organization. Project management was agile, strictly following the Scrum framework, which enabled squads to move fast and deliver results quickly with no overhead. The agile methodology allowed us to meet changing challenges and to react quickly to them. It made long-term planning easier and more efficient and led to increased productivity across the board.

The project began with 6 squads, but as it scaled rapidly, that number has now increased to a total of over 20 and there are Scalefocus experts in 17 of them. Throughout the engagement so far, we have leveraged our expertise in mobile development for all platforms and performed backend integrations with SaaS solutions. We also took part in the automation of quality assurance processes and in designing interactive user interfaces based on our in-depth UX research. Our team also took an active part in the transformation of data into actionable information and in the client’s security architecture strategy and delivery while employing technologies from various tech stacks.

Additionally, our team runs the most productive squad in the project dealing with one of the biggest product areas within the banking app – Accounts. We are responsible for building customer accounts, including features like account balance, recent transactions, digital card access, account statements, and spend analysis. Apart from a Scrum Master, Scalefocus provides two iOS and two Android developers, a backend Java engineer, two quality engineers, and a UX/UI designer. Our team is also responsible for building and managing memberships, including premium memberships, that the neobank will offer, and for KYC procedures and updates.

Another area in which the Scalefocus team contributed greatly was translating our Agile ways of working into a language that the regulators, and the National Bank, would understand. Our knowledge of product management approaches and frameworks allow us to realize the purpose of every ceremony, artefact, or deliverable. It enables us to easily comprehend regulators’ waterfall views, needs, and enquires and match them accordingly to the agile frameworks we are using. To help our client, we provided proof of controls, project management and risk management as these are embedded differently in Scrum. In a highly regulated environment, we were able to easily understand what the regulator wanted, found it in our framework and created the necessary documentation so the client could pass all audits. 

Some of the features our team was responsible for co-building:

  • Online Onboarding, Utility Payments, Automatic Payments
  • Internal, Local, and International Payments
  • Basic membership with a physical debit card
  • Customer self-service through different channels

The Benefits

Modern consumers’ openness to purely digital propositions is what laid the foundations for our client’s business expansion and what informed our approach to the project. We took a close look at the trends underscoring people’s adoption readiness and their decision journeys.

As a result, the neobank Scalefocus helped co-build provides engaging digital experience and offers consumers frequently used and value-added features, such as Online Onboarding, Utility Payments, and Automatic Payments. It is one of the most exciting and large-scale tech projects in the Middle East, and we managed to ensure its scalability, performance and efficiency within ambitious deadlines while onboarding a high number of team members. In a fast-paced marketplace moving towards online banking to meet digital demands, we helped our client pave the way and be one of the first neobanking providers in a region with unlimited potential.

  • One of the first entirely digital banking solutions in the Middle East
  • MVP closed testing version released within just 18 months
  • Consumer-first UI/UX on any device regardless of hardware capabilities
  • Plastic and virtual debit cards for secure payments

Our Work

We have a global client base that includes Fortune 500 companies, innovative startups and industry leaders in Information Technology, E-Commerce, Insurance, Healthcare, Finance and Energy & Utilities.

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