A Working in the investment banking sector, Talal Bayaa faces an inevitable question from clients: where is the best place to park cash?
During his studies in the United States, he came across websites that compared financial products, such as loans, but nothing similar in the UAE was available around 2008 when he joined a bank in Dubai.
Three years later, along with co-founder Brian Habibi, he started to work on the idea of a platform to compare financial products.
Bayzat, which means cash or change in Emirati Arabic, launched in English last April with banking products, such as credit cards, car loans, home loans and time deposits.
This month, it launched a health insurance platform. And now, it is working on its Arabic portal, which is expected to be online in three months.
With the UAE’s rebounding economy, residents now have more choices of financial products than they did a few years ago.
This is where websites such as Bayzat prove handy. And entrepreneurs have been quick to spot the gap in the past couple of years. In the small but growing market for such services, Bayzat competes with the likes of Souqalmal.com, www.moneyshop.ae, MoneyCamel.com and compareit4me.com, as well as nexuscompare.com from Nexus Insurance Brokers for insurance products.
“Financial aggregators have in many mature markets become the reference point for consumers, as they offer transparency, independent views [and a] one-stop shop,” says Ambareen Musa, the chief executive of Souqalmal.com, which she founded in 2011.
Moreover, the UAE marketplace is crowded with banks and products, opaque offerings and fees, preparing the grounds for financial aggregators that call for financial literacy, she says.
“Part of the audience is used to financial comparison in their home country and therefore look for the same when they get here,” Ms Musa says.
“It is a transient population and therefore the need for education on how the banking industry or education industry work.” Working for his own company is a 24-hour job but Mr Bayaa has seen his father go through it as well since 2000, when the senior Mr Bayaa built his Islamic finance advisory company, Tabarak Partners, which later evolved into SGI Advisory, in Dubai.
Mr Talal studied bio-engineering in California, but took to the finance industry similar to his father. Now the Palestinian-American, aged 27, has big ambitions for Bayzat.
Currently, Bayzat shows information of products from 27 banks and one insurance broker, through which it has brought insurance products from different local providers.
The company makes revenues by charging a commission from banking and insurance brokerage partners when people apply for a specific product.
“In the past quarter 40 per cent of the users applied for credit cards, 40 per cent for personal loans and the rest was split among auto loans and mortgages,” Mr Bayaa says. “We have seen a large increase recently in both personal loans and mortgages, indicating that banks have been marketing these products more aggressively.”
Of its users, almost half are from the subcontinent and 20 per cent from South East Asia.
The majority, around 60 per cent, have a monthly income of between Dh5,000 and Dh15,000. A quarter of the users have an income between Dh15,000 and Dh30,000, and the rest earn more than Dh30,000, Mr Bayaa says.
At Souqalmal, personal loans and credit cards top the charts of popular products. By the end of the year, Mr Bayaa expects to add another country in the services.
The UAE’s financial products comparison websites are also targeting the regional market.
Last month, Souqalmal raised US$1.2 million from Hummingbird Ventures to enable it to scale up across the region, with a focus on Saudi Arabia, and to tap into the powers of social media.
At Bayzat, the co-founders financed it with $200,000 for two years when they started to work on the idea in July 2011. Until last year, Mr Bayaa worked in the private equity sector while building the platform on the side. The co-founders hired a team and started a pilot programme with five banks.
Now that it is reaching a critical mass of users, Mr Bayaa wants to introduce different insurance products, such as travel insurance.
“We would like to expand to the other Gulf countries, but there’s so much to do within the UAE,” says Mr Bayaa.