After a somewhat slow introduction to the region, financial technology, or FinTech, has become a thriving industry in the Middle East. However, this sector is growing the fastest in the UAE, which has invested heavily in financial advancement in recent years. FinTech can also attribute its local popularity to the UAE’s minimal regulations surrounding finance, focus on private investments, and geographic location.
The UAE, which is home to the FinTech hub of the Middle East, has attracted the attention of international FinTech startups from the likes of Canada, India, and Singapore. More importantly, this sector has also given rise to a number of local startups. Focused on everything from online payments to financial investments, the UAE’s homegrown FinTech startups are helping solve financial issues for consumers and businesses in the region.
Here are a few UAE-based FinTech startups that you need to keep on your radar:
Established in 2016, Sarwa is making it easier than ever for Arab consumers to capitalize on investment opportunities. The startup begins its process by asking its clients about their financial situations and the goals they would like to achieve. Based on this information, Sarwa builds a customized investment profile that’s designed to maximize returns. Clients can add money to their portfolios at any time, after which the startup will handle all rebalancing and reinvesting activities on their behalf.
Sarwa offers three tiers of investment pricing. With a minimum balance of $2,500, clients receive basic investment services for an advisory fee of 0.85 percent per month. This fee drops to 0.7 percent for those with at least $50,000 in their investment portfolios and 0.5 percent for those with a balance of more than $100,000.
Beam Wallet has grown into the UAE’s most popular mobile payment application since first bursting onto the local FinTech scene in 2012. The app, which boasts more than 700,000 users, facilitates cash-free payments by acting as a digital wallet. Individuals can add their credit cards directly to the app, which then allows them to pay for meals, fuel, and other goods at any Beam-enabled store. They can complete these payments by simply tapping their smartphones to the designated terminal.
Beam delivers more benefits than just simplified payments, however. Users have the opportunity to earn rewards any time they make a payment through the app. Unlike other loyalty programs, these rewards are available in the form of dirhams instead of points. This makes it easier for Bean users to redeem their available rewards at the businesses they visit most often.
Since its inception in 2013, Payfort has created a unique payment portal for Arabic buyers and sellers looking to facilitate safer online transactions. Online businesses can leverage this payment network to integrate online transactions with their websites. Payfort works with more than 50 shopping carts—from Shopify to Instashop—to provide better checkout options for its members.
Utilizing Payfort’s digital payment methods, businesses can make it easier for their customers to make purchases from any location. This eliminates much of the hassle surrounding online payments because it lowers the friction associated with transactions and eliminates the need to redirect to outside payment services. Payfort also provides the foundation that sellers need to accept both local and international currencies, which helps them boost their revenues more easily.
Payfort helps protect buyers and sellers during transactions by delivering agile fraud protection services. Leveraging the most advanced risk management and fraud detection tools, the startup provides the secure payment methods that its customers need.
With a name meaning “marketplace” in Arabic, MyMoneySouq has created an avenue through which UAE consumers can learn about new financial products and improve their money management skills. The site allows visitors to browse for products in four main categories: accounts, insurance, loans, and cards. No matter which type of product they are seeking, MyMoneySouq helps them find all the information that they may need to select the most suitable ones for their budgets.
MyMoneySouq makes this process even easier by providing financial calculators to its customers. Using these tools, individuals can easily determine how much they will need to pay towards their loans each month or how much interest they will earn on deposits.
In 2014, Beehive became the first digital peer-to-peer (P2P) finance marketplace in the UAE. The startup focuses primarily on small and medium enterprises (SMEs), providing them with access to the low-cost financing that they require for growth. On the other hand, Beehive helps local investors connect to assets that will elicit higher returns down the line.
To this end, Beehive leverages crowdfunding solutions to simplify the traditional process of investment. The startup’s process begins when businesses apply for financing. During the “reverse auction” period, investors have the ability to bid on their requests and propose their own repayment rates. Once businesses choose their favorite offers, they receive their funding and pay back the agreed upon amount each month. Working through Beehive thus mitigates risk for investors while minimizing the cost of loans for businesses.