The MENA region, and especially the GCC, is known for hosting and attracting a significantly large amount of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). In Dubai alone, 1,300 millionaires HNWIs made the emirate their home last year, according to a New World Wealth Report published last year.
By June 2020, the UAE was home to 79,000 millionaires, 3,400 multimillionaires with wealth of over $10 million and 12 billionaires. Their total wealth stood at $825 billion (AED 3.02 trillion).
Despite this high concentration of HNWIs, the wealth management sector in the region today remains quite traditional, and there is a need for modern, digital solutions to make managing wealth easier and more intuitive.
Aster, an ADGM-based startup, has launched the first digital wealth management platform designed for the MENA market. The platform has been developed to meet the rapidly expanding needs of the Middle East's digital native wealth owners, marking a first for investors. Aster is user-centric and delivers pricing and reporting simplicity, reducing the average time of an individual’s wealth reporting to minutes instead of days or weeks.
Aster is a mobile-first personal wealth management platform that provides an actionable, holistic view of users’ bankable and non-bankable assets any time, anywhere. Designed with banking-grade security & privacy in mind, the platform helps investors manage their assets through timely price-, position- and portfolio composition updates, enabling data-driven investment decision making and a proactive approach to managing wealth.
Talal AlAjeel, Founder & CEO of Aster, spoke with the Abu Dhabi SME Hub to discuss his company’s recent launch, as well as the overall philosophy behind their platform.
How would you describe the wealth management market in the MENA region? What are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities here?
Overall, we believe that the wealth management market is poised for incredible growth in MENA over the next few years coupled with changes in investor behaviour and expectations. This shift in behaviour is due to the growing segment of young wealth accumulators who by nature are digitally savvy and have an enlightened approach to investing where aligning investments with their views on the world is a core pillar in their decision and allocation process.
The challenge and opportunity in our view are namely bridging the gap between today’s offerings and today’s digital expectations when managing one’s wealth in a manner that is mobile accessible, timely and enables data-driven investment decisions resonating with the digital wealth owner whilst complementing existing advisor relationships. The market is ripe for such an offering and we aim to deliver on that demand.
What led you to create Aster to address these issues with wealth management, given your previous career experiences?
Aster spurred out of a problem I and other investors in the region face, which is the time-consuming nature of having to manually consolidate investments across various asset classes and personal holdings. As such, the process of knowing what you own and where, how you are performing, calculating risk and as a result making informed decisions that limit risk and increase returns was a static and reactive process.
During the research phase, we were looking for tools that can automate and enable dynamic personal investment management but found none in the region compared to global offerings, and those globally did not support regional markets and customs.
Aster conducted a survey last year of 95 ultra high net worth individuals (UNHWIs) across the MENA region. The results showed that only 20% of respondents had access to consolidated asset management reports. Despite the majority of the respondents being interested in receiving consolidated reports of accounts and investments, most were not receiving any.
Furthermore, 100% of respondents indicated that they would like to get their holdings updated at market closing or in real-time, highlighting the need for a digital solution such as Aster’s.
What are some of the unique solutions Aster has developed?
Aster’s key business USP is that it has been developed in its target market, with an approach that is MENA first, based on our research findings. People weren’t being addressed in this market and Aster is stepping in to bridge that gap.
From a technology perspective, security is one of the key USPs of the Aster offering.
It’s been developed with banking-grade security in mind, including: 2-factor authentication for login and password reset, field-level encryption, TLS encryption in transit, inactivity unlock passcodes and biometric identification, security alerts, AES-256 encryption of selected files and data at rest, and more.
You can find more info here.
How did ADGM support you in setting up your business in Abu Dhabi?
ADGM as a jurisdiction with legal independence and a super progressive financial regulatory body where tech startup enablement and support is a core pillar was an absolute no brainer for us.
Another reason we decided to set up in ADGM is its unrivalled data protection and privacy regulations that gave us the confidence that the regulators recognize and promote the importance of personal data and fundamental protection of data subjects' rights, a core value at Aster and a basic expectation of our users.
As for company formation and setting up, the process was a breeze wherein we were handheld throughout the process which was entirely digital during the pandemic’s peak lockdown period.
What challenges do you foresee a company like Aster facing, and how do you hope to solve them?
What would you say are your immediate goals within the next 3 years?
It would be a single goal: to continuously deliver a high-quality product with an experience that guarantees user satisfaction. Fine-tuning our ears to the voice of our users is paramount in providing a product with features that wealth owners want and need in enabling their wealth accumulation.