Bahrain-based COCOA Invest is considering expanding into the UAE as the Islamic robo-advisor prepares to introduce a Shariah compliant pensions product this year as part of its growth strategy.
Looking to anchor itself in Abu Dhabi, a fintech market CEO and Founder Omar Shaikh views as one of the most matured in the region, COCOA Invest is also studying opportunities in Europe, where a regulatory license can be passported, and Southeast Asia.
“It would be a really big help if in the [Middle Eastern] region there was passporting like we see in Europe, but unfortunately, at the moment, there isn’t,” Omar shares with IFN Fintech.
Currently serving the Bahraini market under Central Bank of Bahrain’s regulatory sandbox program, COCOA Invest is also working on expanding its product suite.
“We want to roll out our pension products toward the end of the year. We have a very exciting instant money transfer remittance product in the pipeline. We are very focused on rolling out products utilizing open banking,” explains Omar.
Another interesting market for the Islamic fintech start-up is Saudi Arabia. The number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs) in the Kingdom grew faster than any other market in the world over the last five years, clocking in a 227% surge over the period, according to Knight Frank. This positive trend is also seen in the wider Middle East: Knight Frank predicts that UHNWIs in the region will increase by 24.6% by 2025, solidifying itself as the fourth-largest wealth hub globally.
The region’s demographic dynamics are driving the demand for Islamic digital financial services in the Middle East, opines Omar. “For example, 80% of adoption of consumers are under the age of 40. We have a very large youth consumer market, and understandably, this consumer market who grew up on social media, they tend to go for anything digital because it provides a much easier way to consume any goods or services.”
This is an excerpt of an interview with Omar Shaikh, CEO and founder of COCOA Invest. For the full discussion on the Islamic digital investment landscape in the GCC, log on to IFN Podcast.