Dubai, United Arab Emirates - April 11th, 2018: L-R Nadine Mezher, Mark Chahwan, founder and chief executive officer and Danny Jabbour. A profile of Sarwa, a Fintech start up focused on low cost wealth management to offer expats a cheaper alternative to high costing insurance products. Wednesday, April 11th, 2018 at DIFC, Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The Sarwa team: Nadine Mezher, Mark Chahwan, founder and chief executive and Danny Jabbour. The company is a fintech start-up focused on low-cost wealth management. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Robo-adviser Sarwa plans Mena expansion after funding boost



Sarwa, a low-cost investment advisory platform that launched in Dubai last year, plans to expand its services to the wider Middle East and North Africa after securing $1.3 million (Dh4.7m) of funding from investors including Middle East Venture Partners, one of the region's largest venture capital firms.

The company aims to raise an additional $2m to $4m in a further financing round planned for 2019, said Mark Chahwan, chief executive and co-founder of Sarwa. "Up until now we've been very lean and focused on establishing ourselves in the UAE market, but now we can refine our product and grow," he said. 

The company expects to obtain a full operating licence by the end of this month or in October. At present, Sarwa has a FinTech testing licence from the Dubai Financial Services Authority, which permits it to work with a limited number of clients in the UAE.

“We’ll soon be able to expand our reach,” Mr Chahwan said. The main targets are Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the largest markets in the region.

“Our business model requires scale, as it’s about democratising wealth management by dramatically reducing the cost of investment,” he said. Sarwa is seeing monthly growth of around 20 per cent with more than 1,000 registered users, it says.

Low-cost, or “robo”, advisers offer automated, low-fee, investment and wealth management services via digital platforms. The industry is relatively nascent and exists mainly in the United States and Canada, where Betterment, the biggest robo-adviser with an estimated $10 billion of assets under management, is the best-known example.

Global assets under management by robo-advisers are expected to grow by 68 per cent annually to $2.2 trillion by 2020, according to a 2015 report by consultancy AT ­Kearney.

Many countries in the Middle East are striving to become hubs for the FinTech sector, which is seen as a key driver of economic growth, and free zones including the UAE's Dubai International Financial Centre and Abu Dhabi Global Market have developed strategies to lure FinTech start-ups including robo-advisers.

Sarwa, which began operations in December as part of DIFC's Fintech Hive accelerator programme, claims to be the first regulated robo-advisory in the Middle East. Last year, Wahed Invest based in New York, which says it is the world's first Sharia-compliant robo-adviser, launched operations in the UAE. 

Sarwa's pre-Series A funding round, completed this week, brings its total funding to more than $1.5m since inception, with capital from a range of global and regional VCs including MEVP, Abu Dhabi's Shorooq Investments, 500 Startups from California, Dubai's Women's Angel Investor Network, Saudi Arabia's Hala Ventures and Lebanon's Saned Partners, Sarwa said on Monday.

__________

Read more:

__________

The company will launch a mobile app next year to improve its reach and ease of use, and recruit three more staff to support planned growth, Mr Chahwan said. The company recently hired a compliance officer to help obtain the full operational licence.

Sarwa offers a range of portfolio models assigned to investors based on appetite for risk. The portfolios use six exchange-traded funds (four stock ETFs and two bond ETFs) from Vanguard and Blackrock, the two biggest ETF providers in the world.

Exchange-traded funds are traded like stocks on exchanges and the average fee ranges between 1 to 2 per cent. In comparison, robo-advisory companies can charge as low as 0.25 per cent in the US, while in Europe the average is 0.75 per cent. As a result, their services are increasingly popular with young professionals in underserved markets.

The Middle East is perceived as a high-growth market due to its young affluent population and high smartphone penetration, according to Sarwa, which says it charges an annual fee of 0.85 per cent per year to clients, on a monthly basis.

The minimum investment amount is $2,500 but the plan is to reduce this over time, its co-founder said.

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

Western Clubs Champions League:

  • Friday, Sep 8 - Abu Dhabi Harlequins v Bahrain
  • Friday, Sep 15 – Kandy v Abu Dhabi Harlequins
  • Friday, Sep 22 – Kandy v Bahrain
Where to donate in the UAE

The Emirates Charity Portal

You can donate to several registered charities through a “donation catalogue”. The use of the donation is quite specific, such as buying a fan for a poor family in Niger for Dh130.

The General Authority of Islamic Affairs & Endowments

The site has an e-donation service accepting debit card, credit card or e-Dirham, an electronic payment tool developed by the Ministry of Finance and First Abu Dhabi Bank.

Al Noor Special Needs Centre

You can donate online or order Smiles n’ Stuff products handcrafted by Al Noor students. The centre publishes a wish list of extras needed, starting at Dh500.

Beit Al Khair Society

Beit Al Khair Society has the motto “From – and to – the UAE,” with donations going towards the neediest in the country. Its website has a list of physical donation sites, but people can also contribute money by SMS, bank transfer and through the hotline 800-22554.

Dar Al Ber Society

Dar Al Ber Society, which has charity projects in 39 countries, accept cash payments, money transfers or SMS donations. Its donation hotline is 800-79.

Dubai Cares

Dubai Cares provides several options for individuals and companies to donate, including online, through banks, at retail outlets, via phone and by purchasing Dubai Cares branded merchandise. It is currently running a campaign called Bookings 2030, which allows people to help change the future of six underprivileged children and young people.

Emirates Airline Foundation

Those who travel on Emirates have undoubtedly seen the little donation envelopes in the seat pockets. But the foundation also accepts donations online and in the form of Skywards Miles. Donated miles are used to sponsor travel for doctors, surgeons, engineers and other professionals volunteering on humanitarian missions around the world.

Emirates Red Crescent

On the Emirates Red Crescent website you can choose between 35 different purposes for your donation, such as providing food for fasters, supporting debtors and contributing to a refugee women fund. It also has a list of bank accounts for each donation type.

Gulf for Good

Gulf for Good raises funds for partner charity projects through challenges, like climbing Kilimanjaro and cycling through Thailand. This year’s projects are in partnership with Street Child Nepal, Larchfield Kids, the Foundation for African Empowerment and SOS Children's Villages. Since 2001, the organisation has raised more than $3.5 million (Dh12.8m) in support of over 50 children’s charities.

Noor Dubai Foundation

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched the Noor Dubai Foundation a decade ago with the aim of eliminating all forms of preventable blindness globally. You can donate Dh50 to support mobile eye camps by texting the word “Noor” to 4565 (Etisalat) or 4849 (du).

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Alaan
Started: 2021
Based: Dubai
Founders: Parthi Duraisamy and Karun Kurien
Sector: FinTech
Investment stage: $7 million raised in total — $2.5 million in a seed round and $4.5 million in a pre-series A round


Energy This Week

Expert analysis on oil & gas renewables and clean energy

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      Energy This Week