Islamic digital trading platform The Zeal will be introducing ethical, social and governance (ESG) screenings in the weeks to come as the Toronto-headquartered start-up is preparing to expand into 30 markets by the end of the first quarter (Q1).
Offering equity investment screening and data analytics on its trading platform, The Zeal app soft-launched its services in mid-January in the US after almost two years of development. Describing the response so far as “pretty good”, Co-Founder Hasnain Jaffery tells IFN Fintech: “We are attracting customers — the response is slow initially as expected as we continue to educate people [about Islamic finance].”
The start-up has ambitious expansion plans.
“We are working to go live in 30 markets across the globe by the end of the first quarter,” Hasnain Jaffery, a partner and the co-founder of The Zeal, tells IFN Fintech. Targeting key Islamic financial markets such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East, the start-up is also working on breaking into the markets of Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Singapore, Australia and Hong Kong, among others.
The team, which is spread across three different offices — Toronto, San Francisco and Pakistan — is engaging local brokerage houses in multiple markets including Malaysia and Indonesia to support its global expansion plan.
“Nobody can work on their own — we need to have local partners who understand the local dynamics and culture,” Hasnain shares, adding that the firm is currently seeking partners in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Concurrently, the team is working on expanding its screening tools: at the moment, the app allows stocks to be screened for Shariah compliance as per AAOIFI standards and four other index providers. It is looking to include methodologies used in Malaysia and Indonesia this month, while bringing to its platform ESG screenings by March.
Practicing both business-to-business and business-to-consumer models, The Zeal is also hoping to introduce algorithm trading to its portfolio management system, which is currently based on a modern portfolio theory, in the second half of the year. The self-funded team, which could potentially seek external funding later down the road, would be making additional hires, adding three to five more professionals to its team of 18.