Investing in Payments

by BTM

Thu, 03 February 2022

Samer Soliman - CEO of Arab Financial Services

Fintech is one of the fastest growing and most important technology sectors, globally. As finance and technology continue to amalgamate, Bahrain This Month spoke to the CEO of Arab Financial Services (AFS), Samer Soliman, about the company’s objectives, the future of payments and fintech.

Could you tell our readers a little bit about AFS’ current mission and objectives?
AFS has been in existence for over 35 years with a vision to drive and enable the transformation of digital payments. For every transaction that is conducted, our aim is to enable a fully digital variant versus traditional cash or brick-and-mortar methods. Our vision is simple: empower a digital transaction transformation for secure and seamless payments experiences. 

With over 20 years of international experience across the banking and payment sector, you have brought highly significant experience to AFS. Could you tell us about the company’s achievements under your leadership?
I’ve been privileged to be one of the early adopters of the digital payment space. The last 20 years has given me exposure to international players and I continue to advance my capabilities as an individual. I’m particularly proud of bringing the first contactless transaction to the region and also the first mobile transaction across the Middle East and Africa. 

When I first joined AFS I recognised the company’s potential, and its immense wealth of human capital and technology. As we saw businesses across Bahrain struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, we launched AFS Go! specifically for them. With this new, digital solution bundle we gave them affordable access to digital tools they need to simplify business operations, reach more customers, increase sales, and reduce costs. These affordable, convenient, and easy to use bundled payment solutions span eShop, In-Store Payments and Digital Payroll.

We also delivered Bahrain’s first full payments acceptance solution to businesses via an app: AFS Pay, which transforms merchant smartphones into payment terminals. In addition to scanning a credit card in-store (Tap and Pay), AFS Pay allows remote payments for home deliveries by generating payment links that can be shared via social media. This year we also successfully integrated all King Fahd Causeway toll gates with our smart android POS terminals to deliver quick and secure, cashless customer experiences to travellers.

How has AFS grown since its inception?
Since its establishment, we have pivoted historically from a business that was focused solely on travellers cheques, to a refreshed business agenda that delivers in the areas of payments processing, and has also introduced fintech and acquiring arms to deliver future ready payments solutions for a wider client base. AFS has continually evolved since its inception and that is key to its success and longevity. We have continually invested in our capabilities and resources and the coming year will see us commit to executing a proactive and dynamic strategy for the company to keep it as one of the leading payment providers in the region, operating in over 20 countries and trusted by its partners and clients. 

What do you think is the main reason for AFS’ success in the region?
Definitely the continued investment that we have done over the past 35 years. AFS shareholders did not shy away from investing in new business lines and propositions that would add value. Secondly, we have a wealth of human capital that is incomparable to others; our team is the best in the region in terms of execution and understanding the industry.

What is your prediction for the role of FinTech in people’s everyday lives in the future?
The fact is that fintech makes our lives easier. It’s a frictionless experience that requires less from you as a user, improving your capacity of doing other things. Before COVID-19, FinTech started to gain traction and now that traction has accelerated significantly. There are lots of great ideas out there that can bridge the gap between where the financial industry is and where the technology is today, and I believe FinTech is the key catalyst of that. 

CEO of Arab Financial Services, Samer Soliman with george middletonAre there any new products or service launches planned in the imminent future?
Yes! I think the biggest one that we’re looking at right now is the ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ proposition in the Bahrain market. AFS was privileged to bring this proposition to Bahrain and we’re looking at rolling it out to multiple merchants in the longer term. It enables merchants to have more customers spend in their outlets, and customers are more encouraged to purchase higher ticket items in interest-free instalments. 

Finally, AFS is going to introduce an AFS academy for college students pre-graduation, to come in for an internship. We will use that internship to qualify resources that we can train and develop going forward.