Saudi Arabia's Kingdom Tower/Bloomberg
Saudi Telecom Group’s STC Pay combines Venmo and Apple Pay-like services, allowing people to send money to other users and pay restaurants and stores digitally.
Monday 25, February 2019
(Bloomberg) – Saudi Arabia’s telecommunications company has inaugurated its STC Pay.
Ahmed Alenazi, the Vice President of Business at STC Pay, said that the Kingdom’s Financial Sector Development programme, part of the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 calls for additional incentives to foster use of cashless payment solutions.
Financial technology players must get creative to win customers in Saudi Arabia.
Saudis can also create shared digital wallets for special purposes, such as a feature for their kids or one for domestic workers -- including a wallet for the family driver that can only be used at gas stations.
Non-cash transactions accounted for less than a fifth in Saudi Arabia in 2016, meaning the country has some catching up to do just to reach the ratio of 28 per cent by next year, one of the goals under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s economic transformation plan.
Private drivers are popular among wealthy families, and even many middle class Saudi women continue to rely on chauffeurs nearly a year after Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on female drivers. STC Pay plays on such market quirks partly because convincing Saudis to pay electronically isn’t easy.
STC Pay has 200,000 customers so far in a country of more than 30 million people. The company wants to reach people without bank accounts too -- Saudi Arabia’s foreign domestic and blue collar workers are often “un-banked” -- and recently introduced an international money transfer feature to make it easier to send remittances, Daghache said.
It will compete with other local digital wallet apps such as HalalaH as well as international players like Apple Pay, which launched in the Kingdom a few days ago, as they all try to convince Saudis to go cashless.