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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

DWS Group acquires stake in GCC FinTech start-up Neo Technologies

Deutsche Bank-backed asset manager open to further investment opportunities, board member says

DWS Group, in which Deutsche Bank has a stake, agreed to buy 15 per cent of regional FinTech start-up Neo. Reuters
DWS Group, in which Deutsche Bank has a stake, agreed to buy 15 per cent of regional FinTech start-up Neo. Reuters

DWS Group, a European asset manager in which Germany’s Deutsche Bank has a majority stake, agreed to buy a 15 per cent stake in Dubai and Kuwait-based FinTech start-up Neo Technologies for an undisclosed sum.

The acquisition is part of DWS Group’s strategy to partner with or acquire companies to expand beyond Europe following its initial public offering in March, Thorsten Michalik, board member and co-head of the DWS Global Coverage Group, said in Dubai on Sunday. The deal is expected to complete by the end of 2018.

“By investing in this platform, we further underscore our growth commitment to digitisation and technology, as was communicated during the course of our IPO,” he said. “Neo Technologies enables DWS to obtain further presence in a region with high growth rates in asset management.”

DWS Group is “open to opportunities” to invest in other start-ups across the world – not just in the FinTech sector, but such opportunities are scarce at present, Mr Michalik told The National. At the time of the IPO, DWS Group said it planned to grow its assets by between 3 and 5 per cent per year.

Neo Technologies has operations in Dubai and Kuwait and a technical office in Beirut. It aims to work with asset managers and other financial institutions in the Middle East to help them provide digital wealth advisory and other asset management and banking services to clients in the region.

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It currently partners NBK Capital and is in talks with three or four other prospective clients that it hopes to sign in the near term, according to its founder and chief executive Fahad Albader. “Technology has redefined investment management and client engagement over the past few years,” he said.

“In the near future, platforms with specialised multi-tenant service providers will bring new solutions for the financial services industry.”

FinTech, or financial technology, is disrupting traditional financial services by deploying advanced technology to speed up transactions, cut costs and better serve customers. Banks and other institutions are looking to collaborate with emerging FinTech operators to future-proof their businesses, or risk becoming obsolete as tech-enabled rivals provide cheaper, faster services.

In the Middle East, a young, tech-savvy population and low penetration of wealth advisory services - Neo estimates that only 5 per cent of people have access to such services – is driving demand for digital solutions and Neo hopes to fill the gap, Mr Albader said on Sunday.

DWS Group’s investment will help Neo to expand its platform across the GCC, in particular Saudi Arabia, the largest market in the Arabian Gulf, and develop product enhancements to better service its partner clients, the founder added.