x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

I want to level the financial playing field

This investment manager set up a company that could provide wealth management services tailored to women.

Sara Mohamed expects to have 15 to 20 women on board when she launches her women-only fund in October.
Sara Mohamed expects to have 15 to 20 women on board when she launches her women-only fund in October.

I am the chief executive of Al Bashayer Investment Company in Abu Dhabi. We went operational last year, but we - myself and my chairman, Fatima Obaid Khalifa al Jaber - have been working on establishing this company since 2006. I come from a background where I worked with financial companies and women are always asking you to explain to them what investments are and how they should go about it.

Even if they do put their money into an investment, there is no one there to follow up with them. When they lose money, there is no one to tell them what they should do. Our idea was to set up a company that could provide wealth management services tailored to women. I have seen that if you go to a female investor with a product that is designed only for women, she is very intrigued and excited about it. It is meant especially for her, so she likes that approach.

But we are doing something different. I want to offer them a safe investment, but I want to attach some sort of social aspect to it as well. For example, if you are making 5 per cent on your investment, 1 per cent of that will go towards economic development of some project related to women. So I'm going to attach something like that, a social responsibility. Our approach is not only about the product and it's not about any specific kind of investments. It's about the service.

We sit down with our investors. We try to understand their needs, their requirements. We ask them whether they have thought about their retirement plans, about whether they have pension plans, if they have children and how they are financing their school fees and how they are financing their lifestyle. It is very important to understand a client thoroughly before you recommend any investments to them.

These kinds of concepts exist in the Western world, but in our part of the world we don't have that. We have banks that provide these services - but then again, they are very product driven. As I was doing my research and looking into the local market, I found a lot of affluent, high-net-worth individuals out there who are looking for focused, personalised wealth management - and not only women. There are plenty of men who also complain about the services and advice they get from other financial institutions in the Emirates.

We were very much supported by the Government (and) the UAE Central Bank when we presented our feasibility study and our business plan (to them). They were very impressed because we focused a lot on services, and we told them we would meet the minimum requirement, which is Dh50 million in capital, and focus on women, the high-net-worth individuals and on the family. We were very careful to put our structure (together) and were very careful to bring it to the market. We got our licence in 2008 and we went operational in 2009.

Last year, we were really focusing on the structure and understanding what is going on out there in the financial market. Obviously with the crisis last year, we were very careful in coming forward with any sort of a product. Al Bashayer is one year old. A lot of relationship building needs to take place. This process is going to take time, but I am hoping for maybe 20 to 30 clients at the end of our financial year in March (for our first investment product). I'm anticipating that we will have at least 15 to 20 women investors when we launch our (second) investment fund in October.

On the social responsibility side, I have already identified organisations that would make good partners. We will start our focus in the UAE with the Emirates Foundation because they have a number of beneficial projects in the pipeline - and not just for women. And then in August and September, we will look at the right investment bank. We are looking at a fixed-deposit scheme. I would always like to keep myself on the investor's side because financial institutions always find ways to survive.

Al Bashayer means "news that brings you fortune". It's a good name and a good foundation to work from. * As told to Felicity Glover