A UAE Exchange branch in Sharjah. UAE Exchange group plans to open seven more branches in the UAE taking its total to 153 by the end of the year. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Abu Dhabi: Global remittance and foreign exchange business UAE Exchange group is drawing up plans to enter the Gulf’s biggest market, Saudi Arabia, and is also looking at acquisitions in the fintech space to grow its business, its chief executive officer said on Thursday.

The company will also be opening new branches in the UAE as it focuses on expansion in the region.

Promoth Manghat

“We are actively exploring Saudi Arabia as a market to open new branches. With the given regulatory perspective, we are engaging and exploring [in Saudi Arabia]. In the UAE, we will be opening six more branches by the end of the year to take the total number of branches to 153,” said Promoth Manghat, speaking to Gulf News on the sidelines of the NYU Abu Dhabi StartAd Fintech event on Thursday.

StartAD Fintech, launched by New York University Abu Dhabi, is an innovation and entrepreneurship platform to give a boost to the startup industry in the UAE.

UAE exchange is looking to support startup firms through mentorship and will also consider investing if it makes sense for the growth of its business.

“Adoption of fintech on a mass scale is increasing in a big way. The way you transact things and the way you do things is going to change. The UAE has been at the forefront in adopting the new technology.”

Manghat also said they have already announced a fund of $250 million (Dh918.4 million) for various acquisitions, including in the fintech sector.

“We have closed around 20 per cent of that. We will be looking for more acquisitions across the globe. There are discussions happening currently for acquisitions focusing on money transfer, foreign exchange and payments.”

“We cannot do everything organically on our own, there are better things available in the market for us. Acquisitions is one of the routes, shared economy is the word.”

Recently, UAE exchange has acquired online money transfer company Remit2 India, and also invested in a blockchain firm Loyyal.

They also invested in Swych, a digital gifting platform, and are expected to announce two more acquisitions in the coming days.

On the remittances front, Manghat said the market is definitely challenging but is not catastrophic.

“We have not seen the kind of catastrophic dip in remittances, it is still solid but it is not having the growth seen in the previous years.”

“For the first eight months of this year, remittance volume continued to grow at a rate of 6 to 8 per cent year-on-year, and in some of the markets the growth is still in double digit.”

“Best markets for remittances are India, Philippines, Nepal, Egypt and also East African countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.”

In the boom years, remittances from the UAE to Asian countries had peaked but in recent years there has been a slide. Manghat said the remittance market continues to be competitive due to the presence of a large number of players.