As an employee, requesting end-of-service benefits from an employer upon termination or resignation can be one of the most daunting and stressful experiences of one’s professional life. That’s because, with many employers, it can feel as if you are asking for a favour, when in reality this is money you’ve earned following years of service. The real challenge, however, is when an employer tries to bend the rules of the law or to outright disregard them entirely and not offer an employee their earned funds and benefits.
Amr Yussif, a finance professional working as the managing director of an asset management firm in Dubai a few years ago, was faced with a similar scenario, where a dispute arose between him and his employer regarding his gratuity.
This sour experience led him to consider how many people face his situation every day, and he reached out to his friend Matthieu Capelle, an experienced software engineer who used to serve as head of engineering at Careem Pay, to come up with a solution together.
The end result was FinFlx, an end-to-end gratuity management solution for SMEs. Essentially, it allows businesses to manage and plan for gratuity payments ahead of time, and gives employees visibility about their due rights. Under FinFlx’s gratuity savings scheme, a company diverts gratuity funds into a dedicated bank account with FinFlx partner Emirates NBD, and a company uses this account to pay any due gratuity payments, without disrupting its cash flow. Companies are further incentivised to utilise this method because they earn a 3% annual yield on this account.
To learn more about this exciting solution, the Abu Dhabi SME Hub spoke with Amr Yussif, who serves as the Co-Founder and CEO of FinFlx.
Matthieu Capelle (left) and Amr Yussif (right), FinFlx's co-founders
Can you tell us about your professional background? You were able to pivot from being a veterinarian to working in finance, which is a drastic shift.
My parents wanted a doctor, and a veterinarian degree is what I got. My career started in the pharmaceutical industry, but I have been trading in the financial markets before I even graduated. My life shifted from doing what my parents wanted to what I actually love and enjoy. I had to reinvent myself — I studied Business Administration, then became a qualified wealth manager.
What led you to create FinFlx?
In my latest position, I was the managing director of an asset management firm in Dubai that was acquired by a larger group in London. During the transition, we had a dispute over my gratuity. This process made me realise how bad the situation was when it comes to end-of-service gratuity payments. There are hundreds of cases at the TWA-FOUQ centres every day, involving employees that haven't received their salaries, gratuity or both.
What are FinFlx's core services today, and how does it help solve the problems faced by employees in terms of gratuity payments? After all, this can be a very controversial topic for many.
FinFlx aims to support responsible employers in the SME sector. Those companies usually lack the tools to forecast their gratuity liability accurately or don’t necessarily have a systematic approach to covering that liability.
FinFlx automates employee record management and gratuity calculation and forecasting. By uploading the record file once, or connecting to their HR system, the company can ensure accurate forecasts on autopilot. This gives the business very clear visibility over its current and future gratuity liability.
Finance teams can then use our scenario planning tool to create a monthly contribution plan that fits their business needs and cash flow structure. Once this plan is approved by the business, FinFlx offers the full plan administration and asset management process. Businesses will be able to make monthly payments to a gratuity saving scheme that earns up to 3% annual yield. All the money under the gratuity scheme is kept under the custody of our partner bank Emirates NBD in a segregated client money account, while clients can monitor their balances and view their contribution statements in real-time.
When an employee is leaving, FinFlx calculates their gratuity accurately to the day, and the company withdraws the necessary amount to their corporate account ready for disbursement to the employee as per labour law requirements.
Employers can now streamline their cash flow efficiently based on accurate forecasts and regular monthly contributions without having to face a big cash shock every time a gratuity payment is due, while employees can rest assured that their gratuity earnings are kept in safe custody and readily available when it’s needed. Putting both parties at ease instead of at risk of financial hardships.
The UAE recently updated its labour laws, affecting how gratuities are calculated. In your opinion, how has this affected the labour market in the country, and was there any influence on your business and clients?
The recent labour law change is a huge step in the right direction. Standardising how gratuity is calculated and paid regardless of contract type or the reason for ending the employment contract has created a foundation for much-needed transparency in the system. This change closed all the loopholes that bad employers have been using to try to avoid paying their gratuity dues fairly.
This new labour law puts the UAE on a benchmark with global standards when it comes to protecting employee rights, something that highly skilled talent appreciates dearly. Creating a regulatory framework for gratuity payments, and providing the necessary protection to employee’s earnings, will be foundational talent retention in the country.
You launched FinFlx amid the pandemic, which is a challenge in and of itself. How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey so far, and what are some of the notable challenges you've faced and lessons you've learned?
Launching a startup is hard in and of itself, but launching a regulated fintech is a whole different story. When you are a regulated financial institution, there is not much room for errors.
I was lucky to have Matthieu as my co-founder. Not only is he a very talented software architect, he also had hands-on experience building Careem Pay, which gave us an advantage in preparing our infrastructure for security, scalability and strict regulatory frameworks.
Starting the company during the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for us at FinFlx. On one hand, it kept us focused on solving the right problems and building the things that matter. On the other hand, it was the perfect time to research and talk to customers about their gratuity issues while they were facing that exact problem everyday. Before the pandemic, it was unimaginable to any employer that they could be in a situation where they would need to restructure their whole workforce in order to survive.
In just over a year, your company has received positive feedback and support from entities like Y Combinator, 500 Global, Hub71 and the Dubai Future District Fund, indicating strong belief in your business model. With this in mind, what's next for FinFlx?
We have been very lucky to receive the support of both global and local investors. It gives us access to a very successful group of founders and operators around the world who share valuable transferable knowledge. Having local institutional investors like Dubai Future District Fund and Hub71 is a major vote of confidence that the government values a homegrown pension provider and gives trust in the local fintech ecosystem.
We spent the past year building the infrastructure of a modern workplace savings system from the ground up, and since we received our asset management license from the FSRA and the full regulatory approval in October, the feedback from our clients has been phenomenal.
Our focus in the next phase will be on building a connected experience between FinFlx and other functional tools that businesses use. After successful integrations with industry leaders such as Google, Microsoft, and Zoho, we will expand our integration partners to cover more HR systems, accounting and reporting software to make sure our clients get a seamless experience.
You can check FinFlx's free Gratuity Calculator For Companies in the UAE here.