Lebanon Businessnews News

Biometric tech firm Zwipe
starts MENA hub from Beirut
New payment card technology to be launched in October
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Zwipe, a Norway-based biometric technology company, plans to enter the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and has selected Lebanon as regional headquarters, said Ramzi Saboury, Zwipe’s newly-appointed General Manager for the MENA region.

Saboury said that a physical office will not be set up before forming the team and that they will adopt a decentralized model as a team could be formed in Saudi Arabia, for instance, to serve the Gulf region and another one could be established in Egypt to serve North Africa.

Lebanon is favorably located in the middle of the MENA region and its human resources are skilled and bilingual, he said.

Zwipe had been developing this pilot product consisting of fingerprint biometric technology for payment cards over more than four years and plans to launch its commercial version next October. He said: “We expect rollouts to start from late 2021, with exponential growth likely over the coming years.” According Saboury, if a government in the region, for example, asks for a biometric card to access some important facility, we could adapt our cards for such use. The product will be developed in Norway as it involves advanced technology.

The company expects to secure certifications for its technology from Visa and MasterCard this fall. It will create partnerships with card manufacturers that will be allowed to incorporate its technology in their cards.

Zwipe will not focus at present on local banks as they continue to reel from the financial crisis. When the banking sector starts recovering the banks could begin to use this technology most likely for their VIP clients who represent around ten percent of the total number of cardholders, Saboury said. VIP cardholders need secure cards because they are granted very high limits by the banks, he said. Lebanese banks had an appetite for this technology before the crisis when the local financial technology company Areeba was testing the pilot product in 2018, according to Saboury who was that company’s Chief Commercial Officer at the time. “Even though biometric technology is more expensive, banks can save a lot of money by adopting it because it does not require a pin code which is costly to operate. Moreover, biometric cards, thanks to their extreme security, are attractive to customers who will be encouraged to raise their withdrawal limits,” he said.

The MENA region, which includes 25 countries, will be divided into clusters, each with specific characteristics. The focus will be on countries advanced in fintech such as the Gulf region and Lebanon as well as on countries with scale-up potential such as Iraq, Egypt, Libya, and Morocco. “Countries that are late in adopting a technology usually select the most advanced version of that technology,” Saboury said.
Date Posted: Apr 12, 2021
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