Financial markets are at the forefront of technology as speed and volume give advantage to traders. Established in 1971, Al Fardan Exchange has built a network that spans all Emirates and offers secure transactions through over 150 global corresponding banks, financial institutions, and other financial services providers.
The Al Fardan Group, of which the Exchange is a key business, was founded in 1954 by Hassan Ibrahim Al Fardan and centred around the jewellery and natural pearl trade. Pearl trading at the time was a vital part of the economy and happened across multiple currencies. The Exchange was founded to manage these currencies and quickly went from a side business to becoming one of the largest exchange houses in the UAE and the region.
Hasan Fardan Al Fardan, CEO at Al Fardan Exchange, explains how the mission and the vision of the company have changed over the years.
“When the business started, it was largely focused on the trading of currencies. It has evolved into being more centred around remittances. As an industry we are very much focused on financial inclusion, so the business that we do helps customers send money to millions of people around the world to meet their basic day-to-day needs.”
Such a size of operation means that a significant investment has been required to digitally transform the business. Hasan says that the importance of demonstrating its value was when the Covid pandemic hit.
“During the pandemic, because we were one of the organisations that was very well set up for digital remittances, remittances grew by around nine times during the pandemic within our digital products. Equally, the brick-and-mortar space tends to be significant and we still do about 90 per cent of our business within the brick-and-mortar space. My view is that as the economy evolves and as the customer preferences and taste evolve, we will continue to see more digital adoption within the remittance space.”
An omnichannel strategy that blends a physical brick-and-mortar network with digital solutions is allowing Al Fardan Exchange to see continuous growth during the pandemic. Hasan points out that the company avoided furloughing and redundancies as a result of Covid.
“On the contrary, we actually hired and we continued to expand our business during the pandemic.”
For some time, Al Fardan Exchange has looked into the fintech space for innovation and over the past 18 months has entered into a number of partnerships to boost its offer in remittance as a service and payments as a service. Hasan points out the advantages of businesses joining forces.
“We understand the core business of remittances and payments very well. We are digitally enabled and prepared to connect with fintechs and enable them to work off our platforms. We are also a trusted and highly regulated business within the UAE economy.”
Going digital means that the exchange is able to target a younger customer base with products that deliver an experience attractive to tech-savvy users. Hasan chairs the FinTech Subcommittee of the influential Foreign Exchange and Remittance Group, set up to engage with the regulators and meet the digital ambitions set out by the UAE Government.
“Digital onboarding allows us to deliver a seamless customer experience, looking at the entire customer journey from end to end and making sure that the backend processing is happening as smoothly and efficiently as possible. During the early Covid-19 days, the UAE government launched the UAE Pass, which helped us considerably address that particular issue.”
Hasan sees compliance measures from the UAE Central Bank as a natural progression of existing regulations to support the sector and ensures that only sustainable and highly compliant businesses will continue to operate in the industry. This places Al Fardan Exchange in a strong position in the market for the coming decade.
“There will be a massive migration towards digital, now we're slowly seeing a reduction in the transactional use of cash. Having digital payment solutions is going to be very important. We're in the process of building our own digital wallet that is there to support our existing offerings including our new Super App, AlfaPay.
“From my family I have learned the importance of patience and sticking to your core values of integrity, honesty, hard work and commitment.
“This commitment to our core values is placing Al Fardan Exchange, which is as old as the UAE, on track marking its Golden Jubilee - and looking to thrive for the next half a century.