UAE robo-advisory platform Sarwa raised $15 million in a new funding round led by Abu Dhabi's Mubadala Investment Company.
The series B round, or the second round of funding for a start-up, brings the low-cost trading platform’s total funding from regional and international investors to about $25m since it was founded in 2017, the company said on Tuesday.
Sarwa will use the capital injection to fuel its growth in the region, build new products and grow its team, it said.
Retail investors are increasingly seeking direct access to markets with the help of technology, leading to a surge in popularity for zero-commission trading apps such as Robinhood, eToro and Interactive Brokers.
Demand for trading apps also rose during the pandemic due to monetary easing by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world, giving novice day traders more money to invest during pandemic lockdowns.
“This investment will fuel our growth so that we can reach millions more,” said Mark Chahwan, co-founder and chief executive of Sarwa.
Venture capital firm 500 Startups, Kuwait Projects Company, Shorooq Partners, Middle East Venture Partners, DIFC, Hambro Perks Oryx Fund, Hala Ventures and Vision Ventures also participated in the funding round.
Co-founded by Mr Chahwan, Nadine Mezher and Jad Sayegh, Sarwa Invest uses artificial intelligence to rate an investor’s risk tolerance and assigns them a tailored investment portfolio of exchange-traded funds, charging them lower advisory fees than traditional financial advisers and wealth managers.
The FinTech platform currently has more than 40,000 registered users.
The global robo-advisory market size is projected to grow by 31.8 per cent to $41.07 billion by 2027, up from $4.41bn in 2019, according to Allied Market Research.
Sarwa is revolutionising the financial services landscape in the Middle East by offering a range of investment solutions to a large market that has had little access to such services in the past, said Ibrahim Ajami, head of ventures and growth at Mubadala Investment Company.
“In just three years, [Sarwa] has nearly doubled its client funds and expanded its product base to include a wider range of securities and asset classes, reflecting the potential for further exponential growth,” Mr Ajami said.
In July, Sarwa launched Sarwa Crypto portfolios to tap investor demand for digital currencies despite price volatility. Globally diversified across asset classes such as stocks, bonds and real estate investment trusts, it also offers a 5 per cent exposure to Grayscale Bitcoin Trust, a large US-based Bitcoin investment vehicle that is publicly quoted.
Digital currencies are not licensed by the UAE Central Bank, although a number of cryptocurrency exchanges have been given permission to operate within the Abu Dhabi Global Market.
The UAE dirham is the only legal tender in the country that is recognised by the Central Bank.
Earlier this year, Sarwa also lowered its minimum investment amount to $5 from $500 to reflect its commitment to democratise investing.
“We want to ensure that everyone has access to simple, smart and affordable financial products and services," Mr Chahwan said.
Meanwhile, financial literacy and inclusion are key to improving lives and building better societies, Tim Chae, managing partner at 500 Startups, said.
“At 500 [Startups], we back companies that are leading the way in changing the world … and Sarwa has boldly tackled the issue by demystifying investment and making it easier than ever before for young people to get a head start on building their personal wealth,” Mr Chae said.