Strong consumer appetite for digital banks in Saudi Arabia: Boston Consulting Group

Strong consumer appetite for digital banks in Saudi Arabia: Boston Consulting Group
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Updated 11 October 2021

Strong consumer appetite for digital banks in Saudi Arabia: Boston Consulting Group

Strong consumer appetite for digital banks in Saudi Arabia: Boston Consulting Group

More than half of Saudi Arabian consumers would have “no problem” moving banks as financial services competition intensifies amid the rise of digital lenders, according to a new survey.

Fifty-two percent of Saudis would be comfortable making the change, and 63 percent are actively looking for new lending offers, says US consulting firm Boston Consulting Group in its 2021 Consumer Sentiment Study in Banking report.

Customers say high street banks offer poor customer service, lower interest rates and limited products, the survey reported, which interviewed 2,000 people.

By contrast, consumers are impressed with the speed at which online accounts can be opened, their convenience and the range of loans and savings new banks offer over a smartphone.

BCG managing director Mustafa Bosca said: “With digital capabilities introducing consumers to new possibilities, the Saudi banking sector is witnessing more and more people proactively engage in multiple banking relationships.

“Demands and expectations are evolving, and we see that it is easier to switch banks with the simplicity of digital onboarding.”

Bosca added these trends “highlight the increasing level of competition across the national retail banking landscape, with many changing banks within the past year alone.”

In June, Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet approved licensing for two digital banks in the Kingdom, with total capital amounting to SR4 billion ($1.07 billion).

STC Pay will be converted into a local digital bank, STC bank, with a capital of SR2.5 billion ($667 million). Additionally, several companies and investors, led by Abdul Rahman bin Saad Al-Rashed and Sons Company, will establish a local digital bank — Saudi Digital Bank — to conduct banking business in the Kingdom, with capital of SR1.5 billion ($400 million).

These new lenders will attempt to eat market away share from the Kingdom’s largest banks, such as Saudi National Bank, Al Rajhi Bank and Samba.

The BCG research also showed that 49 percent of those surveyed changed banks in the last five years to look for “improved banking experiences”.

This contrasts sharply with the traditional model of retail banking where most customers stayed with the same bank for a lifetime.

Bank observers said this had been the case because most high street banks offer similar services, while switching lenders was complicated and ran the risk of missing direct debit payments.

However, the BCG report found that 88 percent of customers are now willing to open a digital-only bank account, and 79 percent of Saudis are willing to share their data in exchange for a better banking service.

This is higher than the 66 percent of European customers who were willing to share their data with new financial services firms.

In Europe, digital banks such as Revolut, N26 and Starling have added tens of millions of customers in a little over five years. However, they have found it hard to generate profits, because most customers use them as their secondary account keeping just a few hundred pounds in them a month to take advantage of additional services such as free travel money, or vouchers for high street stores.

This leaves European digital banks with reduced reserves of cash for lending.

However, BCG project leader Martin Blechta said that “the widespread appetite for digital banking services in the Saudi market is a trend almost certain to continue expanding.

“With these considerations in mind, the onus is on every bank to continue accelerating digital transformation and reimagine the customer journey.”

Blechta added: “Digital transformation acceleration has unquestionably set a new benchmark for retail banking incumbents. Customers seek convenience and personalised experiences through digital, and the majority will pursue alternatives should they encounter more attractive propositions.”

Customers were attracted to the speed and convenience of digital banking, but also liked the “innovative savings and investing” options the sector makes more easily available.

The report found 44 percent of those surveyed had invested or were planning to invest in cryptocurrencies.

Blechta said that all types of banks should “position themselves to remain competitive and accommodate consumer demands,” which should include “embedding new asset classes within investment portfolios and building new and innovative open banking use cases.”

Britain launches oil, gas licensing round to boost domestic supply

Britain launches oil, gas licensing round to boost domestic supply
Updated 14 sec ago

Britain launches oil, gas licensing round to boost domestic supply

Britain launches oil, gas licensing round to boost domestic supply

LONDON: Britain launched its first oil and gas exploration licensing round since 2019 on Friday to try and boost domestic hydrocarbon output as Europe weans itself off Russian fuel, according to Reuters.

The British North Sea, home to the global Brent benchmark grade, is an aging basin where oil and gas production has fallen from a 1999 peak of around 4.4 million barrels of oil equivalent to around 1.5 million boed.

Britain is hoping to increase domestic supplies as it grapples with record high energy prices which have forced it to plow billions of pounds into schemes to help limit the impact on homes and business and to curb spiralling inflation.

In the new licensing round, the North Sea Transition Authority is offering 898 blocks, encouraging applications especially for the Southern North Sea where hydrocarbons are close to existing infrastructure allowing for swift development.

Depending on the number and quality of applications, around 100 licenses might be awarded, the NSTA said.

It estimates the time from oil or gas discovery to production has fallen significantly in recent decades to around five years.

While hosting the COP26 climate summit last year, Britain decided not to join an alliance of countries vowing to stop new oil and gas projects on their territory.

The government says continued oil and gas production does not stand in the way of its aim to build a carbon neutral economy by 2050.

“Security of supply and net zero should not be in conflict,” NSTA chief executive Andy Samuel said.

Greenpeace said the focus should be on insulating homes better and growing renewable power.

“New oil and gas licenses won’t lower energy bills for struggling families this winter or any winter soon nor provide energy security in the medium term,” Philip Evans, energy transition campaigner for Greenpeace said.

“More fossil fuels... solve neither of those problems but will make the climate crisis even worse.”

The government is reviewing its plans on how to reach its carbon neutral goal with a renewed focus on energy costs for businesses, energy secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has previously expressed skepticism about the need to fight climate change, said on Sept. 26.

“Ensuring our energy independence means exploiting the full potential of our North Sea assets,” Rees-Mogg said.

Britain imported close to 40 percent of its energy last year, according to government data. In terms of oil and gas, British fields provided around 38 percent of its gas and 75 percent of its oil demand, according to the OEUK offshore industry body.

Oil and gas firms can apply for licenses until Jan. 12 with licenses expected to be awarded in the second quarter of next year, the NSTA said.


Chipmakers weigh on European shares; focus on US jobs data

Chipmakers weigh on European shares; focus on US jobs data
Updated 44 min 24 sec ago

Chipmakers weigh on European shares; focus on US jobs data

Chipmakers weigh on European shares; focus on US jobs data

BENGALURU: European shares slipped on Friday, led by semiconductor firms after weak earnings and forecasts from Samsung and Advanced Micro Devices, while recession fears lingered amid signs that central banks would remain aggressive with policy tightening, according to Reuters.

The continent-wide STOXX 600 index was down 0.3 percent, as of 0800 GMT, in line with a downbeat Asian trading session.

The index closed lower on Thursday after minutes from the European Central Bank’s last meeting fanned fears about the state of inflation in the euro zone and aggressive policy moves to tame it.

All eyes are on the US nonfarm payrolls report, due at 1230 GMT, which will show job growth likely slowed in September, although overall labor market conditions remain tight, providing the Federal Reserve with cover to continue hiking rates.

“The reason this data set is a big one, arguably the biggest since markets began to unravel, is because the data will show if the Fed’s enthusiastic interest rate hikes are now being felt in the jobs market,” said Sophie Lund-Yates, lead equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

“Today’s news will shape the Fed’s monetary decision in November.”

The STOXX 600 had rallied earlier this week after a smaller-than-expected rate hike by Australian central bank and softer US economic data spurred hopes of central bank pivot. The index has gained 1.9 percent so far in the week and is on pace for its best weekly performance since late July.

Meanwhile, data showed German retail sales fell more than expected in August, while industrial production contracted as supply bottlenecks remain due to pandemic-related distortions and the war in Ukraine.

Among stocks, European chipmakers fell after South Korea’s Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and US chipmaker AMD signalled the chip slump could be much worse than expected.

Infineon, BE Semiconductor, Soitec , Nordic Semiconductor, ASML, STMicroelectronics and ASMI dipped between 1.6 percent and 2.9 percent, dragging down the broader tech sector by 1.7 percent.

Adidas lost 2.8 percent after the German sporting goods maker put under review its business partnership with rapper and fashion designer Kanye West.

Renault jumped 3.7 percent to top the STOXX 600 index after ODDO BHF upgraded the French carmaker’s stock.

Credit Suisse rose 3.3 percent after the lender said it would buy back up to 3 billion Swiss francs ($3 billion) of senior debt securities, making a show of strength as it seeks to reassure investors after a tumultuous week. 

Diriyah Gate, National Housing Co. join efforts to enhance Saudi housing sector

Diriyah Gate, National Housing Co. join efforts to enhance Saudi housing sector
Updated 07 October 2022

Diriyah Gate, National Housing Co. join efforts to enhance Saudi housing sector

Diriyah Gate, National Housing Co. join efforts to enhance Saudi housing sector

RIYADH: Diriyah Gate Development Authority has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi National Housing Co. to enhance cooperation in common areas that serve the housing sector.

Through this deal, Diriyah and NHC aim to elevate quality of life, improve the urban landscape, and provide designs models that are compatible with the urban code of Wadi Hanifa — a valley in Riyadh — and its tributaries, Saudi Press Agency reported.

The deal also aims at supporting the integration of efforts to increase the supply of designs for beneficiaries of NHC's services within Diriyah authority’s supervisory scope, based on the importance of coordination between them and seeking to expand areas of cooperation, which include initiatives, workshops, joint projects, exchange of data, experiences and statistics between the two parties.

Diriyah CEO Jerry Inzerillo stressed the importance of the MoU, as it includes holding a workshop entitled 'Design Studio', as well as NHC's notification to the authority of all its initiatives within the supervisory scope of the authority.

Workshops will be held by the authority regarding participation in the initiatives to explain the urban code of Wadi Hanifa, Inzerillo said.

The cooperation includes allocating a page on the company’s Sakani platform for beneficiaries of residential villa models within the supervisory scope of Diriyah under the title ‘Engineering designs compatible with the Wadi Hanifa code and its tributaries’, with the ability to display the designs of the authority on the Sakani platform through the same page, in addition to Diriyah platforms, NHC CEO Mohammad Albuty said.

Oil steady as focus turns to US economic data

Oil steady as focus turns to US economic data
Updated 07 October 2022

Oil steady as focus turns to US economic data

Oil steady as focus turns to US economic data

REUTERS: Oil prices steadied on Friday ahead of key US economic data after rising over 1 percent in the last session on cuts to OPEC+ production targets.

Brent crude futures slipped 11 cents to $94.31 a barrel by 0339 GMT. WTI crude futures were down 5 cents to $88.40 a barrel, after earlier hitting $89.37 per barrel, the highest since Sept. 14.

A stronger dollar added pressure on oil prices amid a chorus of hawkish Federal Reserve speakers signaling further aggressive central bank policy tightening.

Fed officials showed no intention of backing down from the most aggressive rate hike campaign in decades, with Fed Governor Lisa Cook, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans and Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari all stressing that the

inflation fight was ongoing and they were not prepared to change course.

Markets are keenly watching the US nonfarm payrolls report due later on Friday, with economists forecasting 250,000 jobs to have been added last month, compared with 315,000 in August.

“Oil is leaking lower in Asia, which is not so unusual after a big run-up heading into the weekend, especially against rising US yields and a stronger dollar providing the downdraft and triggering some pre-weekend and pre-nonfarm payroll profit-taking,” Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management said in a note.

However, both benchmarks were headed for weekly gains, fueled by production cut announcement by OPEC+.

The cut from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies including Russia, together known as OPEC+, is the largest reduction since 2020 and comes ahead of a European Union embargo on Russian oil. The decision would squeeze supplies in an already tight market, adding to inflation.

“Market sentiment was already bearish in anticipation of a weakening global economy, and this decision should further tighten the market,” analysts at ANZ Research said in a note.

Tightening monetary policy and China’s ongoing COVID-related movement restrictions mean global demand growth is expected to come under pressure, ANZ added.

US President Joe Biden expressed disappointment on Thursday over OPEC+’s plans and he and officials said the United States was looking at all possible alternatives to keep prices from rising.

Some of those options include releasing more oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve or exploring a curb on energy exports by US companies. 


Riyadh tops global cities with fastest millionaire population growth

Riyadh tops global cities with fastest millionaire population growth
Updated 06 October 2022

Riyadh tops global cities with fastest millionaire population growth

Riyadh tops global cities with fastest millionaire population growth

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh has recorded the fastest millionaire population growth globally in the first half of 2022, as the Kingdom’s economic growth progresses in line with the goals outlined in Vision 2030, according to London-based investment migration consultancy Henley & Partners. 

According to the report, the number of millionaires grew by 20 percent in Riyadh in the first half.

In the first half, Riyadh created 1,700 new high-net-worth individuals who have assets worth $1 million, while 850 people are multimillionaires with assets worth $10 million.

In the same period, 47 people became centi-millionaires with assets worth $100 million, while five people turned into billionaires.

According to the World Wealth Report 2022 issued by the Capgemini Research Institute for Financial Services in June, Saudi Arabia has the largest number of millionaires in the Middle East with more than 224,000 millionaires living in the Kingdom.

The report also suggested that Saudi Arabia is ranked 17th globally in the number of millionaires, with the number of high-net-worth individuals rising from 210,000 in 2020 to 224,000 in 2021. Sharjah also topped the list with a 20 percent growth, followed by Zambia's Lusaka and Dubai in the second spot, as both cities registered a growth of 18 percent.

Angola’s Luanda and Abu Dhabi secured the third spot, both cities reporting growth of 16 percent, followed by Nigeria’s Lagos at 15 percent and Austin at 14 percent in the fourth and fifth spots respectively.