We talked to Omar Abdelwahed of Valify about the digital identity gateway, and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Omar Abdelwahed: Well, it’s definitely been a challenging time. Trying to balance family life, health, work has proven to be demanding, especially since we are all affected by lockdowns. We’ve all turned to technology for maintaining connections. We’re using social media more frequently to keep in touch with relatives and friends.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Valify.
Omar Abdelwahed: I started off my career at IBM, where I was first introduced to KYC’s concept while developing an application for a client. During that time, I was curious to learn more: I depended on my father’s 30+ years of banking experience to understand what KYC really means… My father is more or less the godfather of the idea behind Valify. He was the one who emphasized how significant KYC is and how physical KYC will be a major bottleneck considering the steps being taken towards financial inclusion and digitization. At that point in time, I shifted into the FinTech space where I was able to get first-hand exposure to the drawbacks of physical identity verification and how it’s a major hurdle for financial inclusion. Two years after the shift into fintech, I decided to take the risk, leave my job, and start Valify with my cofounder Ibrahim Eid. We gathered one of the best teams I had the privilege to work with and hit the ground running. We are now 2 years into it, and we are seeing full support from the CBE and other regulators towards the establishment of a framework for eKYC and the concept of digital identity technology.
How does Valify innovate?
Omar Abdelwahed: Our identity verification technology was custom built to tackle regional challenges such as extracting data from identity documents written in the Arabic language & performing face matches for users wearing a headscarf or other religious garments. We take pride that 100% of our services are built in-house, developed in the MENA region for the MENA region. Developing our identity verification technology was a difficult and complex process with many layers of iteration, testing & rebuilding key components over and over again until we got it right. We are always looking for market gaps and new disruptive innovations to include better security, performance, and accuracy in our technology stack.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Omar Abdelwahed: COVID-19 has actually accelerated our business, the pandemic has caused a big portion of our target customers to speed up the shift towards digitization. We’ve seen service providers taking quick steps towards customer experience digitization and increasing the share of digitally enabled products in their portfolios.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Omar Abdelwahed: The cultural side of this transition has been a bit of a challenge. We’ve seen people want to go back to the office and have that physical presence with their colleagues. However, safety in these times is the highest priority. Without the right digital mechanism that can fill in some of the gaps left in the absence of physical interaction, we do not believe that the traditional office is dead yet at least not this early on in a company’s lifetime.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Omar Abdelwahed: Mainly exercise and taking occasional breaks from the daily demands of work and focusing on friends, family & hobbies. More importantly, choosing the right group of people to surround yourself with who believe in the same vision to strive towards and support each other when one needs to recharge.
Your final thoughts?
Omar Abdelwahed: While COVID-19 took the world by surprise, and some have struggled immensely, it has forced everyone to adapt and create a better future where we are more prepared. As the cliché goes, necessity is the mother of creation, and I believe I am lucky to work with such a special group of people to help make a difference in the lives of our family, friends, and our country.
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