Al Etihad Payments' Role in UAE's Digital Payment Evolution
Mita Srinivasan
10X Technology

Al Etihad Payments' Role in UAE's Digital Payment Evolution

In this interview with Al Etihad Payments’ CEO, we delve into the company's key initiatives including the Aani instant payment platform and the upcoming Jaywan domestic card scheme, highlighting their significance for SMEs in the UAE.

Al Etihad Payments (AEP) is responsible for developing and operating advanced financial market infrastructure, offering innovative solutions such as the instant payment system, Aani, and the soon-to-be-launched domestic card scheme, Jaywan. These initiatives align with the UAE’s broader goals of becoming a global leader in digital payments and fostering a cashless economy.

In an interview with SME10x, Jan Pilbauer, the CEO of Al Etihad Payments, sheds light on the innovative strides the organisation is making to transform the digital payment landscape in the UAE.

Could you provide an overview of Al Etihad Payments and its role in advancing the UAE’s digital payment infrastructure?

Jan Pilbauer: Al Etihad Payments was established in 2023 as a subsidiary of the Central Bank of the UAE. Our primary mission is to develop and operate a sophisticated financial market infrastructure to enhance the nation's financial stability and deepen financial inclusion. We aim to enable all licensed financial institutions in the UAE to offer premier digital payment services to their customers. AEP has already introduced several national payment solutions including Aani, our instant payments platform, UAESWITCH, which interconnects ATMs and POS terminals, and the UAE Wages Protection System (WPS). We are also working on future projects like Jaywan, the UAE’s domestic card scheme.

Can you tell us more about the Aani platform and how it enhances the user experience for financial transactions?

Jan Pilbauer: Aani is designed to provide seamless and secure transactions 24/7. It allows instant fund transfers using just the recipient's mobile number, email, or a QR code, eliminating the need to remember complex IBANs. This significantly streamlines the transaction process and enhances the user experience. Transactions are processed in less than 10 seconds, offering immediate feedback on their status. Aani supports a variety of payment scenarios, including government services, utilities, and e-commerce, making it a versatile tool for both consumers and businesses.

Jaywan will soon be launched around the country. How does Jaywan align with the UAE's broader digital transformation goals and the vision for a cashless society?

Jan Pilbauer: Jaywan is a critical component of AEP’s strategy to support the UAE's digital transformation and vision for a society less reliant on cash. By localising card transactions and ensuring that payment data is processed domestically, Jaywan aims to enhance financial inclusion and reduce transaction costs for both consumers and merchants. This initiative provides a secure, efficient, and user-friendly payment solution that aligns with the UAE's broader goals of transitioning to a digital-first economy.

How will Jaywan benefit SMEs in the UAE?

Jan Pilbauer: Jaywan is designed to be efficient, reduce transaction costs, and process payments locally. This makes it particularly beneficial for SMEs, which can significantly benefit from lower transaction fees and faster processing times. Accepting Jaywan or Aani payments will bring many advantages to SMEs, such as convenience, efficiency, and enhanced security. Additionally, Jaywan’s domestic processing ensures that payment-related data is securely handled within the UAE, further contributing to the overall reliability and trust in the system.

What steps are being taken to ensure that SMEs can easily integrate Jaywan into their existing payment systems?

Jan Pilbauer: We have worked closely with financial institutions, acquirers, and other payment service providers to ensure that Jaywan is compatible with existing payment systems. Jaywan cards have been designed to be economically efficient, and we expect that incentives and special programs will be offered to motivate both consumers and merchants to adopt Jaywan. AEP is also committed to providing comprehensive training and support to help SMEs transition smoothly to using Jaywan.

The introduction of platforms like Aani and Jaywan represents a significant leap forward in creating a cashless, efficient, and inclusive financial ecosystem. SMEs in particular stand to gain immensely from these advancements, positioning the UAE as a global hub for digital payments and financial innovation.