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Saudi Arabia’s open banking plans could ‘revolutionize’ opportunities for fintech \n

  • The move could open the market to numerous fintech services, spurring competition and increasing users' options when it comes to managing their own finances. 
  • With some 70% of the kingdom's 34 million population under the age of 30 and highly digitally literate, it's a potentially lucrative market for fintech providers and start-ups.   

The Kingdom Tower, operated by Kingdom Holding, left, stands alongside the King Fahd highway, illuminated by the light trails of passing traffic, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016.  Waseem Obaidi | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Saudi Arabia's central bank, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), is launching a framework for open banking in the kingdom, allowing a dramatically new direction for a sector known much more for its dedication to stability rather than for change and innovation.    

"With the support of market participants, SAMA plans to go live with open banking during the first half of 2022," the regulator announced earlier this week. The decision is set to present significant opportunities for fintech companies and Saudis themselves, locals and experts in the finance sector say. 

The central bank's move "is set to revolutionize how customers, merchants and financial institutions augment the value they reap from accessing financial data," Tala Al Jabri, a Saudi national and venture capital investor based between Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, told CNBC. She expects it to "open up opportunities beyond financial inclusion by placing greater emphasis on Saudis to become more financially literate and in command of their finances." 

Open banking, used in numerous countries around the world, allows third-party developers to access customer data (with their permission) from their banks and act as a bridge to financial technology platforms like accounting and personal finance apps. It's what enables payment platforms like Venmo to operate in the United States.   

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