In February 2023, Tarabut Gateway, MENA’s leading regulated open banking platform, made two senior hires: Oussama Bouhcine as VP of Customer Success and Services and Derek Lakin as VP of Engineering.

Insight MEA’s Victoria Zagorsky interviewed Oussama Bouhcine and Derek Lakin to discuss their roles and goals in implementing the company’s vision. They also shared perspectives on the challenges hindering the growth of open banking in the MENA region, and highlighted the benefits that open banking unlocks for traditional banks. 

Tarabut Gateway is revolutionising the financial services sector: reducing barriers to entry and providing enabling infrastructure for data and payments to flow freely across the entire MENA region.

According to the leadership team of Tarabut Gateway, the Company’s mission is to provide the supporting infrastructure to all industry players, creating win-win situations for incumbent financial institutions and fintech start-ups.

The term “Tarabut” in Arabic translates to interconnection. Establishing connections and building long-term, trustworthy relationships are fundamental principles for the company and align with the essence of open banking. The leadership of Tarabut stresses that they succeed by empowering all financial sector participants, including fintechs, banks, third-party service providers, and merchants.

So, how does this translate into practical application? By utilizing Tarabut Gateway’s APIs, any fintech can connect to a network of regional banks integrated on their platform, enabling seamless and secure data sharing. This connectivity allows for the creation of innovative products and apps, such as personal finance management, lending, and more.

Tarabut Gateway’s aim is to be the go-to partner for banks, fintechs and merchants across the MENA region. The leadership team at Tarabut Gateway states that their approach to innovation works by collaboration rather than disruption. They say that instead of concentrating on competition they partner up, enable, and power other business models. The Company is built around partnerships, community, and open collaboration.

Open banking challenges in MENA

As stated by the leaders of Tarabut Gateway, one of the primary challenges to the growth of open banking in the MENA region is the fragmented regulatory landscape. Unlike the EU, which has a unified set of regulatory standards, MENA jurisdictions vary significantly.

As a result, Tarabut Gateway must adapt to the local technical and legal requirements in every jurisdiction they enter. This necessitates a careful balance of agility and diligent groundwork as they establish themselves as the open banking infrastructure in new markets. However, overcoming this challenge is central to their value proposition: they provide connectivity for fintechs, relieving them of the burden of navigating complex connections with various financial sector players across different markets.

The leadership team at Tarabut Gateway believes that in the long run, the regional market would benefit from regulators developing a standardised framework and enabling the passporting of fintech licenses. They are confident that this would facilitate smoother expansion and cooperation across the region.

Benefits of open banking for traditional financial institutions 

According to Tarabut Gateway’s leadership, open banking offers undeniable benefits to legacy financial institutions, particularly banks. By providing their account holders with an unparalleled array and quality of financial services and products, banks can enhance their in-house offerings with fintech-facilitated solutions. This comprehensive approach to personal banking and financial management allows banks to retain existing customers and attract new ones more effectively.

Another significant advantage is the improved customer experience driven by open banking and the fintech innovation it enables. With access to vast amounts of previously underutilised data, developers across the ecosystem can create and test new products. The implementation of open banking frameworks in Bahrain, KSA, and UAE has led to a surge in innovation.

Additionally, banks and other financial institutions benefit from new revenue streams through an expanded product offering. For instance, through account information services, they can process required checks and risk assessments more rapidly, onboarding more customers while simultaneously improving risk management.

Tarabut Gateway serves as a trusted partner for banks, building the ‘pipelines’ through which their data can securely flow. They connect legacy players with fintech startups, providing both sides with ample business opportunities in a rapidly growing sector.


Derek Lakin, Vice President of Engineering

Mr. Lakin, can you tell us about professional journey, and how your past experiences have prepared you for this new role?

Derek Lakin: I spent many years as a developer for mobile device software, which honed my passion for the end user. Gradually, I acquired more management skills and started leading larger teams. This progression hit a turning point during my time at Skype when I realised how fulfilling it was to support people to perform their best. This led me to further pursue the people management path.

During my tenure at world-class technology companies, I was able to participate in, and lead on, the development of high-volume products, such as Skype and GroupMe, massive-scale distributed systems in the cloud (Skyscanner and Facebook), plus smaller-scale products and companies, such as Culture Trip.

This breadth of experience has given me a deep understanding of engineering principles across disciplines, and best practices for development and delivery. The essential learning behind that is engineering pragmatism – to understand how, where, and when to apply these principles depending on context.

All my experiences have prepared me for this amazing and challenging opportunity at Tarabut Gateway.

As Vice President of Engineering, you undoubtedly have many exciting initiatives and projects on your plate. Can you give us a sneak peek into some of the upcoming developments you are working on at Tarabut Gateway?

Derek Lakin: We are at the forefront of financial innovation in MENA, actively collaborating with our customers and partners to bring open banking to the region. Our exciting work is shaping the future of financial services, and we are committed to driving positive change and delivering innovative solutions that benefit everyone.

A current prime focus is delivering our products in KSA. A condition for success in this market is not just external product delivery but concentrating our attention inwards and evolving our engineering culture, clearly formulating and strengthening the core principles we orient our work towards. Our engineering vision is a collaborative, scalable, empowered, and autonomous team effort that can rapidly adapt and deliver the right product to meet constantly changing user needs.

Additionally, culture and team members’ career growth and development are critical factors for Tarabut Gateway’s ongoing progress. These factors determine the organisation’s ability to enhance performance, drive revenue, empower employees, and ultimately maintain business growth and achieve its objectives. At Tarabut Gateway, we all contribute to investing in best-in-class processes for performance and people management, enabling us to support, develop, and grow our team to fulfil our ambitions.

Oussama Bouhcine, Vice President of Customer Success

Mr. Bouhcine, could you introduce yourself and tell us about your background and experience? What has drawn you to your current role as Vice President of Customer Success and Services at Tarabut Gateway, and how do you plan to leverage your skills and expertise in this position? 

Oussama Bouhcine: I am passionate about realising the potential of technology for enterprises. During my education in Medical Informatics at the University of Amsterdam, I was fascinated by how technology assisted the work of healthcare professionals. After completing my education, I joined Microsoft, which was, and still is, the epicentre of technology for organisations.

At Microsoft, I learned how to implement and lead large-scale digital transformation within complex organisations. While this environment taught me many valuable lessons, my ambition was to have an even larger impact and drive an organisation’s hyper-scale growth. This motivation led me to move to Zivver, an exciting business scaling secure communications. Zivver was an ideal environment to pursue my passion for digital transformation. I set up the entire post-sales department, services, and customer support, and scaled it for over 7,500 organizations.

Tarabut Gateway is the third chapter in my career and a perfect combination of my previous roles. The opportunity Tarabut Gateway is pursuing—given the open banking momentum in the region—is incredibly promising.

As Vice President of Customer Success and Services, you have a critical role to play in ensuring that Tarabut Gateway’s clients receive exceptional support and service. What are your top priorities in this area, and how do you plan to work with your team to achieve these goals?  

Oussama Bouhcine: The top priorities in customer success and services are ensuring customers have a positive experience with your product or service, achieving their desired outcomes, and becoming advocates for your brand.

Ultimately, we must consider customer needs and goals as the starting point: Planning their success is crucial for designing and delivering the right products and services. Further along the customer journey, we cultivate an open and strong customer relationship through frequent business reviews to align on business and product goals.

Effective and standardised onboarding and training enable us to deliver our services at scale. While we focus on providing premier services for banks, this foundation will pave the way for self-service onboarding for other third-party service providers at scale.

To measure and track customer success, we must formulate clear goals and monitor progress against these objectives. We use metrics such as customer satisfaction, retention, and advocacy to gauge the success of our customer service efforts. Another intelligence mechanism we employ is a customer health score – identifying any customers at risk and addressing problems in a timely manner.

While this approach may sound straightforward, implementation does not guarantee immediate success. Today’s market conditions are challenging, but our energetic, diverse, and talented team gives me the confidence that we are prepared to make a lasting impact on the industry.

Victoria Zagorsky writes about FinTech and emerging technologies.