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Global Outlook, Local Roots: Equiti Group Co-Founders Iskandar Najjar And Mohamed Al Ahmad The Middle East-based Equiti Group is determined to deliver global fintech solutions built on strong local foundations.

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Equiti Group

The rapid growth of Equiti Group, a market-leading Middle East-based fintech provider, has been making significant waves in the world's financial arena. Indeed, its co-founders, Iskandar Najjar and Mohammed Alahmad Ketmawi, are passionate about establishing the MENA's presence on a global scale by crafting international solutions rooted in local regulations.

Driving through Dubai lately, it's almost impossible to ignore the presence of Equiti. Over the past year, the Group has been intensifying its marketing efforts as part of its expansion plans, and it aims to bring the benefits of its online trading, payment services and digital asset solutions to as many people as possible. Iskandar Najjar, co-founder and Group CEO of Equiti Group, says, "Since 2017, Mohammed Alahmad Ketmawi, my co-founder and Chief Managing Director, and I have set out to build something that could serve everyone globally. While many international companies have established their presence here, we uniquely possess the experience, know-how, and talent pool to really build something from the region that can serve on on a global level." A thriving fintech sector will undoubtedly enhance the competitiveness of the Middle East in the global economy, and Equiti is thus on a mission to ensure that such growth stems from strong ethical roots.

Iskandar Najjar, co-founder and Group CEO (sitting), and Mohammed Alahmad Ketmawi, co-founder and Chief Managing Director (standing), Equiti Group. Source: Equiti Group

Since its inception, the Equiti Group has rapidly expanded its operations, opening offices in the UAE, UK, Jordan, Seychelles, Armenia, and Cyprus. Some of their notable achievements include being the first specialized global brokerage to receive a license from the Jordan Securities Commission in over a decade, as well as being the first non-dealing online foreign exchange (FX) broker licensed by Kenya's Capital Markets Authority. With an emphasis on innovative and regulatory quality, the Group is setting new standards in underserviced markets worldwide. "Innovation is very much at the heart of what we do, but we have a regulation-first mindset, which really cements the foundations of our every step," Najjar says. "We've built technologies that are very much focused on developing markets, but with our service offerings, we're very close to the frontier and emerging markets as well. So, we are devoted to bringing global standards to markets that are significantly underserviced in this space."

Iskandar Najjar, co-founder and Group CEO of Equiti Group. Source: Equiti Group

Equiti's unique strength stems from this approach of building global solutions on a deep understanding of emerging markets. "When we're in Kenya, we want to be Kenyan. When we're in Jordan, we want to be Jordanian. When we're in the UAE, we want to be from the UAE," Najjar explains. "And we're servicing our clients accordingly, from onboarding to payment services to trading instruments, and all of this really allows us to be both globally scalable and locally available. That is what has really been a key pillar of our growth, and one of our key differentiators against competitors." Speaking of business growth, Equiti has experienced aggressive increases in trading volumes and active accounts on its platform, quickly becoming one of the top 15 brokers globally in terms of monthly volume. This year also saw the launch of their proprietary mobile trading app, Equiti Trader, which has achieved remarkable success with a month-on-month growth rate of 50%. Najjar attributes this achievement to the synergy between technology, regulation, and sales strategies.

Related: Entrepreneur Middle East Publishes Special Report Looking Into The State Of Fintech In The MENA Region

Building stable and resilient systems within the business is paramount for supporting such growth. "Firstly, it is essential to have the right data architecture in place in order to be able to understand what you want to automate and the necessity behind it," Najjar says."Secondly, building the right process management systems is essential to understanding how to make automated things better and how to support it for scale." This is the methodology that has been realized by Equiti's 500-strong team, of whom 130 are part of the Group's tech hubs in Jordan, Armenia, Cyprus, and London. Najjar adds, "The world has changed, remote access to talent has become more accessible than ever before, but what has not changed is that having the right team is essential."

Equiti's payment services have also witnessed impressive growth figures, and on top of this, the company also recently acquired a digital payment technology provider named Cloud Invest. Commenting on this deal, Mohammed Alahmad Ketmawi, co-founder and Chief Managing Director, says, "The acquisition of Cloud Invest bolsters our operational efficiency, and it enables us to achieve vertical integration while expanding our revenue lines."

Mohammed Alahmad Ketmawi, co-founder and Chief Managing Director of Equiti Group.
Source: Equiti Group

Looking ahead, the future plans for the payment side of Equiti's business include enhancing the Group's offerings, and improving its operational efficiencies. "I expect this to happen quite soon, as soon as the second quarter of this year, and then, since we're already servicing large retailers and large banks across Africa and the Middle East, we're looking at presenting and offering our new payments solutions as well," Alahmad Ketmawi explains. "For example, one of our quite innovative offerings is our tap-to-phone solution that is evolving the payments space by allowing clients to no longer use point-of-sale (POS) devices, but to be able to use their phones for executing transactions. So, that's a very, very exciting piece that we'll be pushing to market soon."

Expanding Equiti's reach even further, Alahmad Ketmawi adds that "we are investing heavily in developing our fintech and many new solutions are coming to life as we speak," such as tokenising real-world assets (gold, real estate, and other commodities) and developing more proprietary tech. Equiti is also a founding member of the Dubai Digital Asset Association (D2A2), a not-for-profit industry association registered under the Dubai Chamber of Digital Economy to promote sectoral growth, and to provide a standard-setting platform for the digital asset industry in the region. Equiti's Managing Director of Strategy, Gaurang Desai, is the Chairman of the D2A2, while Najjar serves as the Director of the Board.

"The UAE has made major advancements in the still nascent digital asset space, positioning itself as one of the global leaders in this field." Najjar says. "The regulators are fantastic in terms of providing a framework for bringing cutting edge technologies to life. Regulation is key, but it's important to have it at the right balance, where it doesn't strangle innovation. I believe the UAE has found the right balance, where it provides safety and governance, but at the same time, it provides a landscape for growth and development."

Going forward, Alahmad Ketmawi notes that Equiti has no plans of slowing down any time soon. To start with, the Group's online trading service is planning to expand into Latin America and Asia this year. "We also want to continue our competitive edge in the Middle East and East Africa, and also to expand across South Africa and West Africa as well," he adds. "Our strongest retail presence right now is in East Africa. From a B2B perspective, we're quite equally distributed across Europe, Middle East, and Asia. So, we expect to continue that growth. Our growth forecasts on the retail side are about 100% for this year, and for our B2B business, it is around 30% for the same period." As we come to the end of the interview, Najjar highlights that only regulation can properly fuel the evolution of the digital asset space. "I think that the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, FTX, was a real learning curve for everyone to make them understand the importance of regulation, oversight and governance," Najjar notes. "We are big believers in the technology behind digital assets, and we are believers in artificial intelligence, but only if aligned with all the important structures and related nuances."

Equiti believes that the growth of the fintech sector will support an innovative ecosystem that extends beyond finance, and this will encourage collaboration between established institutions and tech startups, fosters e-commerce and regulation, and nurtures foreign investment and cross-border collaboration. At the end of the day, establishing the MENA as a respected and transparent hub for international fintech innovation can only strengthen its global standing, and the Equiti Group is dedicated to supporting that vision through its increasingly convenient and exciting financial services.

Related: The Recap: Leaders In Fintech Awards 2023

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