Al Masraf bank has become the 10th bank to join the Norbloc KYC Blockchain platform developed under the initiative with Department of Economy and Tourism (DET).

Al Masraf has announced the launch of a project that will see it connecting to the norbloc Fides platform, a blockchain-based solution that allows for the secure sharing of eKYC data. The network, which has been live since 2020, connects licensing authorities, free zones and financial institutions across the emirates in an ecosystem, where a single version of each customer KYC file is maintained and shared, ensuring that financial institutions always have access to the latest and most up-to-date KYC data.

Graham FitzGerald, CEO Al Masraf stated, “Becoming part of the Fides ecosystem allows us to obtain all of these objectives, as well as join other leading financial institutions in making use of this innovative technology. It is an important step with in line with a broader effort to digitize and streamline our customer journeys.”

Astyanax Kanakakis, CEO and Co-Founder of nobrloc  added, “Al Masraf is an important addition to the Fides platform which greatly benefits from the networking effects of having more institutions connect to it. There are currently 15 entities participating in the ecosystem, making it one of the most advanced eKYC utilities globally. Al Masraf is also the first institution to make use of our recently announced SaaS connectivity option, meaning that they will be able to start consuming KYC data in a matter of weeks.”

Al Masraf becomes the 10th bank to join the network which also includes Mashreq Bank, ENBD, HSBC, ADCB. Licensing authorities and free zones such as DIFC and Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone participate acting as data providers on the network.

In April 2023, the first Islamic Bank joined The KYC platform as well. 

The project was launched in February 2020. In 2021, the Blockchain KYC Fides Platform built by Norbloc for both Dubai Economy and DIFC became one platform for the entire UAE. Dubai Economy and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority agreed to consolidate efforts and expand the UAE KYC (Know Your Customer) Blockchain Consortium positioning it as the national corporate e-KYC Platform, making it the first such platform in the region.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) has become the first Islamic bank that went live on the UAE’s KYC (Know Your Customer) Blockchain Platform.

The UAE KYC Blockchain Platform is expected to accelerate the opening of bank accounts for newly registered companies while paving the way for a less cumbersome and costly process of managing KYC data for firms already registered with the system. It will also facilitate a faster, more secure onboarding and exchange of digital customer data and documents; this will be carried out through advanced blockchain-powered distributed technologies.

The initiative was launched in February 2020 by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) with the partnership of four founding member banks; three listed lenders which are Emirates NBD, Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), in addition to HSBC.

Norbloc Blockchain KYC solution provider implemented the KYC Blockchain platform to facilitate a faster, more secure onboarding and exchange of digital customer data and documents through advanced blockchain-powered distributed technologies, a first of its kind in the region.

Currently, KYC Blockchain Platform has expanded after the joining of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Ras Al Khaimah Free Trade Zone (RAKEZ), RAK International Corporate Centre (RAK ICC), the listed Mashreq Bank, and WioBank.

Acting Global Head of Retail Banking at ADIB, Samih Awadhalla, said: “When ADIB joined the UAE KYC Blockchain Consortium, we did so with the clear goal of developing onboarding operations and providing more secure ways of handling and exchanging data.”

The CEO of Dubai Business License Corporation, Ahmad Khalifa Al Falasi, said: “Through this advanced mechanism, we aim to further improve the ease of doing business, and overall, further enhance and ensure regulatory compliance in the UAE.  As blockchain is a breakthrough technology, we see tremendous potential in streamlining services and operations, saving time, money, and resources for everyone involved – individuals, companies, and government bodies.”

Meanwhile, Astyanax Kanakakis, CEO and Co-Founder of norbloc, said: “The continued expansion of the UAE KYC Blockchain Platform to include key banking institutions, such as ADIB, further strengthens the network which has been live for three years now. ADIB is the third financial institution to join from the emirate of Abu Dhabi, ensuring that norbloc’s Fides platform will continue to provide a significantly better KYC experience for both financial institutions and their clients across the UAE.”

In 2022, the Blockchain KYC Fides Platform built by Norbloc for both Dubai Economy and DIFC will become one platform for entire UAE. At the time Dubai Economy and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Authority agreed  to consolidate efforts and expand the UAE KYC (Know Your Customer) Blockchain Consortium positioning it as the national corporate e-KYC Platform, making it the first such platform in the region. Previously both entities had launched separate blockchain KYC consortiums both using Norbloc Blockchain platform. DIFC in March of 2020 had launched their initiative with Mashreq Bank, while Dubai Economy had launched with a handful of UAE Banks a month prior to DIFC.  Both DIFC and Dubai Economy had chosen to use the FIDES platform from Blockchain entity Norbloc.

The first phase went live in 2020 and more entities have joined since resulting in the platform holding close to 50 per cent of corporate e-KYC records in UAE.

Governor of Central Bank of Kuwait Basel Al Haroon in an interview with John Everington from the Banker, discussed the implementation of Blockchain EKYC solution as well as the ongoing research for CBDCs.

According to the governor of Kuwait’s Central Bank, the bank is closely following the experiences of other countries that are issuing CBDCs, as well as the debates taking place among stakeholders in various countries regarding the various pros and cons.  He tells the Banker that they have formed a team of experts from various fields within the CBK to study the topic. According to Al Haroon, any such issuance would need to be accomplished in a way that preserves monetary and financial stability, while maintaining confidence in Kuwait’s payment system.

In addition when it comes to blockchain, two local Kuwait banks have obtained the Central Bank’s approval to launch their blockchain based KYC verification and API interfaces.

In June 2021, Akcess which utilizes Hyperledger Fabric to provide KYC Blockchain enabled solution to customers in Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE opened its offices in Kuwait as it currently had projects underway in Kuwait, Egypt, UAE and Qatar.

In the announcement CEO Abouzeid stated, “With a team of over 30 developers spread across London, Romania, and Moldova, Our global blockchain platform is AKcessChain, built on Hyperledger Fabric, and we launched the private blockchain network globally and in Kuwait,” Abouzeid says. “We currently have nodes in the UK, Switzerland, and Canada, and have configured nodes in Kuwait, one for each of our large clients. The Kuwait network is being used by top financial institutions for onboarding clients, verifying and updating KYC profiles, as well as managing transactions. We are now in advanced talks with financial institutions in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and are also preparing for our expansion into the GCC market.”

In 2021 Avanza Innovations was piloting its KYC banking solution in Pakistan, two years later, Pakistan Banks’ Association (PBA), on behalf of all its member banks, signed the project contract for the development and execution of Pakistan’s first, blockchain based, national eKYC banking platform with the Avanza Group.

Avanza Group’s eKYC platform, ‘Consonance’, is being implemented for PBA. The platform will use blockchain technology through which banks will be able to standardize and exchange, with customers’ consent, their details via a decentralized and self-regulated network. This will be a support platform for Pakistan’s banking industry and all participating member banks will be able to perform assessments of their existing, as well as new customers, by utilizing information/ data available with any other bank on ‘Consonance’.

In 2021 Avanza was piloting the EKYC blockchain enabled platform with three big banks. In an interview Waqas Mirza, Founder and CEO of Avanza Innovations notes, “ “We are launching the EKYC Blockchain enabled platform initially for three of the biggest banks in Pakistan under the auspices of Pakistan Banks Association (PBA) and in-line with the guidance of State Bank of Pakistan. The eventual goal is to roll out this National EKYC platform to all banking and financial institutions in Pakistan.”

He had noted at the time that it is always recommended to start with a pilot and limited number of participating entities before scaling. 

In the latest announcement Mirza stated, “The Standardization and anomaly detection of Customer’ KYC details is just the first use case in this journey. In the future, the same platform can be enhanced to share Trade Finance related details, digital exchange and verification of banking documents, digital cheque clearing and many more. Avanza is very proud to implement the first building block of this multi-year journey that will greatly benefit the industry as well as end customers.”

Mentioning trade finance, digital cheque clearing is paramount because it is what put Avanza on the map in the UAE as well as Bahrain and other places.

Avanza had rolled out the National EKYC platform for BENEFIT in Bahrain back in 2021.  At the time Mirza had stated that GCC region has been our best partner for experimenting and implementing blockchain solutions and now we are replicating these solutions in neighboring countries.

Avanza Group had started its blockchain projects in the UAE and GCC region. Avanza was the technology partner for UAE Trade Connect Project. Blockchain UAE Trade Connect platform, the UAE’s first trade finance platform to combat fraud has 11 UAE banks on its platform and was the UAE’s first commercialized solution to combat fraud in the trade finance space built on advanced technologies, namely blockchain and Artificial Intelligence (AI). UTC is a collaborative project of the banking industry and co-created with e& enterprise.

With the advent of the Invoice Factoring law recently published by the Federal Government of the UAE, the UTC blockchain platform was a key enabler for banks to increase lending to SMEs and allow corporates to borrow against their trade receivables.

In December 2021, the UAE Blockchain AI enabled UAE Trade Connect trade finance had processed 10 Billion AED (2.7 billion USD) worth of invoices during the first eight months of its operation. Etisalat Digital launched UTC trade Finance platform in April of 2021 alongside seven banks within the UAE.

In early 2022, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank joined UTC platform as did Dubai Islamic Bank. At that time UTC had in total nine banks on its roster. The founding banks included First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), RAKBANK, Emirates NBD, Commercial Bank of Dubai, National Bank of Fujairah, Mashreq Bank, ADIB – Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, and Commercial Bank International.

The experience and reputation Avanza gained from both projects in Bahrain and UAE spurred the growth to other countries and continents.

Avanza Innovations, part of Avanza Group has also worked with multiple other UAE  governmental entities on Blockchain projects. Entities include DP World, Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Dubai Customs, RTA, Dubai Police and others.  

Waqas Mirza, Founder and CEO of Avanza Innovations in an interview in 2021 mentioned the work Avanza was doing in Saudi Arabia. He discussed working on a Blockchain Invoice verification with a well renowned company. He at the time stated, “We have won a project as one of the subcontractors working on an invoice verification solution built on Hyperledger. The client is utilizing this solution to ensure seamless procurement and payment procedures with its suppliers.”

In conclusion, Avanza Innovations a UAE blockchain solution provider has used UAE’s Blockchain strategy and commitment to innovation to grow well beyond its roots. This is a lesson to many blockchain and crypto entities that are setting up in UAE, the limits are endless.