Stories from Sarwa Part I - Lessons learned from building the highest valued fintech in UAE.

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Nadine Mezher Co-founder of Sarwa has been through quite a journey leading her to where she is today.

Last month, I sat down with her virtually for a Startup Grind Muscat fireside chat to learn more about her experience and what she's learned as Co-Founder & Chief Marketing Officer at Sarwa, the region's first hybrid Robo-Investment Advisory platform.

With a vision to democratize investments and provide younger generations with affordable, easy and professional advisory, it's no wonder that they've been growing rapidly since March of this year when the pandemic forced people to take a hard look at the lives and futures they're building and re-organize priorities.

Nadine came to the Sarwa team from diversified experiences based on her varied passions. Her path took her from working in a bank to studying fashion in Italy and France. She worked in fashion management in leading couture houses in Beirut, and ultimately became a consultant working with the government in Dubai on fashion strategy and initiatives.

Eventually, she started working on strategic positioning for growth-stage businesses, and that's when she met her two business partners Mark Chahwan and Jad Sayegh.

I was coming into this conversation with Nadine very interested to learn more about the "behind-the-scenes" at Sarwa because I had recently become a customer, and I was curious what their journey has been like.

With a wealth of experience, Nadine is sharing below some of the lessons she's learned from her journey building Sarwa.

If you're interested in tuning into the full conversation, you can catch that here. I'll be sharing more articles from my conversation with Nadine shortly. Stay Tuned!

Driven by a strong mission

Nadine spoke clearly and passionately about the importance of being fueled by a strong mission.

Sarwa's mission of democratizing access to investments for people all across the region is something they truly believe in, and it has helped build a community of supporters, brand ambassadors, VCs and a team that all believe in that mission and are working towards it.

Find a mission you're passionate about because it will drive you to overcome the challenges you face along the way.

Trust building every step of the way

For a financial technologies company that works with its customers' savings, Nadine understands that building and maintaining trust is vital for them to do their job well.

Nadine describes the trust-building process as a layered approach, starting with regulators. They are regulated by two entities. In Dubai, they're regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) and by the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) Authority in Abu Dhabi. This means that their policies and practices are heavily monitored and secure.

They add another layer to gain trust through working with very trusted brokerage partners. Working with them enables all of Sarwa's customers to receive SIPC coverage which protects their investments in case the company fails, covering up to $500,000.

They're also backed by very well known and trusted regional and international VC firms including DIFC and the Abu Dhabi investment office.

The last layer in building trust is engaging with the media. Profiling the founding team, talking about their journey, success and challenges is a key cornerstone since it gives the company a human face, and helps showcase the strength of their team to deliver on their mission.

Leading and engaging your team

Nadine spoke highly and passionately of her team and how close they are. She said that at Sarwa they have regular team meetings and make sure everyone is heard. The founding team feel the responsibility of leading by example and taking care of the well being of their team.

They also have decentralized decision making for day to day operations which empowers them and makes sure they can resolve issues on their own. Speaking on the culture of their team, she said:

"We make sure when we hire that we have cultural fit, that everyone is part of our family and believe in our mission."

What's next for Sarwa?

Nadine lights up when talking about her vision for Sarwa in the next five years.

She sees Sarwa helping as many people as possible in the region to build the financial futures they want to reach. She envisions online investing to become a norm, and that with additional services they're adding, the region will become more empowered to build a better future.

If you're interested in the full conversation with Nadine, you can catch that here. For more from our conversations, here's Nadine's advice for founders and here you'll find tips for first time investors.

© 2020 by BeDo Summit

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