Aion Digital shot into fame in October last year after being declared “one of the most exciting and innovative fintech startups across the globe” at FinTech Abu Dhabi. That was just the beginning for the Bahrain-based FinTech startup, which has now evolved into a trusted platform for banks to undergo a quick and efficient digital transformation.
Bahrain has been at the forefront of supporting FinTech solutions, with the creation of the leading FinTech Hub in the region, and The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) developing a flexible and forward-looking regulation system that supports FinTech innovation by launching their regulatory sandbox for FinTech startups and cryptocurrency startups to test their products, and graduated startups from the sandbox that have met the requirements.
That’s not all, though! Aion’s portfolio includes at least half-a-dozen compelling products — but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
StartUp Bahrain recently got in touch with Aion Digital to discuss the company’s roadmap, any upcoming major move, and of course, how it evaluates the status quo in the Kingdom’s startup ecosystem.
Aion Digital was the brainchild of Ashar Nazim, the lead founder who is currently doubling as the CEO. Nazim has a rich background in where banking, financial technology, and entrepreneurship meet.
He has previously served Ernst & Young (EY) in the capacity of a Partner and also the global head of its Islamic banking practice.
Ashar, along with a team of bankers, technologists, designers, and regulators, did something gutsy that many aspiring entrepreneurs fail to live by. They quit their high-profile jobs to launch Aion Digital.
The banking sector was undergoing a massive technological evolution around the time and Nazam figured that the majority of these financial institutions didn’t have much of a clue regarding what it exactly meant to go digital.
Ashar recalled fondly:
“Tens of millions of dollars were being spent by banks with no return on investment on sight. That was the opportunity — to define the digital banking model and to work alongside banks to bring this change.”
He added: “There was no Plan B and that is surely the only way to succeed.”
What exactly does Aion Digital do?
Simply put, Aion aims to empower traditional banks to go digital with an assured return-of-investment. With that vision, the company is currently building the required infrastructure and market reach to target more than tens of millions of customers on behalf of its client banks spread throughout the Middle East and Asia.
Aion’s services can be divided into two broader categories. The first is a unique digital banking platform offering reliable banking solutions on the go.
On top of that, the company also helps client banks leverage and monetize the data acquired internally using Aion’s solutions. Among other perks, this helps banks to execute active and personalized customer engagement.
Overall, Aion offers six services including:
- Digital onboarding
- Retail digital bank
- Corporate digital bank
- Artificial intelligence platform
- Open banking
- Lifestyle rewards
“Currently, we are building five digital banks in the region. We have invested USD 10 million so far in research and development,’ Ashar noted.
He also highlighted that Aion’s onboarding solution is the first-of-its-kind in the broader GCC market, further adding that with this initiative, the company has created “a single virtual banking market for 34 million GCC nationals.”
The roadmap ahead
We asked Ashar if he had anything to share with the StartUp Bahrain community regarding the company’s roadmap in the weeks and months ahead.
His answer: “In 2020, we are set to launch the first digital-only stand-alone bank in the region that is powered by Aion. We have earmarked USD 20 million investment in 2020-21 on technology research and innovation.”
Speaking of investments, Aion has committed to a $1 million investment for a Youth Training Program for selected Bahraini candidates interested in learning the nitty-gritty of FinTech innovations from local and regional experts.
What makes Bahrain ideal for startups like Aion Digital?
Saying that he “absolutely recommends” emerging startups to set up base in Bahrain, Ashar noted Bahrain is just the perfect destination for ventures like Aion. He explained that because of its small size yet vibrant nature, the Bahraini market gives companies a shot at winning fast.
“It is a good size market with a diversified talent pool, supportive regulatory environment and infrastructure support from the likes of Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) and Bahrain Fintech Bay (BFB).”
He also thanked Tamkeen for helping Aion reach where it is today.
“Tamkeen has given us great support in terms of guidance, positioning, and funding. Bahrain Fintech Bay connected us with like-minded disruptors to collaborate while offering ongoing training, workshops, and events.”
If you would like to learn more about Aion Digital or the ongoing digital revolution in GCC’s banking sector, let us know using one of our social media channels over at Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.