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Hassan Bharmal

Hassan Bharmal: Crafting a Purpose-Led Future in Fintech

Transforming Lives through Financial Inclusion!

Where innovation meets purpose signifies more than a fintech mantra; it’s a commitment to revolutionize financial services with profound societal impact. This ethos defines myZoi’s mission for financial inclusion, championed by an accomplished and purpose-driven executive, the driving force behind its transformative journey.

Hassan Bharmal, the Chief Commercial Officer of myZoi | Financial Inclusion Technologies LLC., is steering the course toward a future where financial services are not just a business but a force for good.

For Hassan, a career spanning over two decades in financial services, consulting, and advisory led him to a profound realization: the dynamic fintech industry held the key to merging commerce with a higher purpose. Joining myZoi was not just a job for him; it was a commitment to drive business development and oversee the commercial side of things with a dual focus—making it commercially viable and profitable while ensuring the underbanked community truly benefits from the offerings.

MyZoi’s proposition is simple yet powerful: to empower individuals through digital payroll solutions, instant cross-border transfers, and financial literacy, all seamlessly accessible through an easy-to-use app. With the consumer at the heart of their vision, it is not just a fintech platform; it’s a purpose-led venture aiming to elevate financial awareness and well-being for the underbanked.

Headquartered in the UAE, myZoi is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank, incubated through SC Ventures—the bank’s innovation and fintech investment arm. Uniquely positioned as one of the few licensed fintechs in the UAE, myZoi recently obtained independent licensing from the Central Bank of the UAE, establishing itself as a credible payroll provider for employers in the region. Hassan’s career spans prestigious global institutions like Citibank N.A., ABN Amro, QNB Group, Standard Chartered Bank, and PwC. An alumnus of Columbia Business School, he completed the Global Banking Program in 2019, focusing on fintech, AI, and digital transformation. His journey into fintech was fueled by a dual desire—adding purpose to his career and pivoting into the dynamic fintech space.

The inception of myZoi presented Hassan with a unique opportunity to be part of the founding team and build a purpose-led digital payments platform from the ground up. Rooted in the drive for employee well-being and financial awareness for the underbanked, myZoi distinguishes itself as a force for good in the global fintech landscape. As myZoi aims to test its solution in beta with a limited number of users, the vision is set for a commercial go-live early next year (2024). Hassan and the myZoi team are not just building a fintech platform; they are crafting a purpose-led future where financial inclusion becomes a transformative force, unlocking potential and reshaping lives for the better.

Below are the interview highlights:

Could you please tell us about myZoi and its inception story?

Zoi means life in Greek. myZoi is committed to making a meaningful impact in the lives of the underbanked and their families.

myZoi was founded by Christain Buchholz (Chief Innovation Officer) along with Syed Muhammad Ali (CEO), Shanawaz Rauf (COO and CPO), Nabid Hassan (Product Lead), and Arsalan Siddiqui (Country Head, Pakistan). myZoi was incubated by SC Ventures, and the concept was conceived and presented to the venture for funding and investment. The concept was approved, and initial funding for research was granted a couple of years ago. The company has progressed from them by attaining independent central bank licensing, uniquely positioning myZoi among the very few independently licensed fintechs in the region. Our ambition has always been to enable financial literacy and inclusion for the underbanked globally, outside of the UAE.

We chose the UAE as our base and the first pilot market. Why UAE? The answer is very simple: the UAE has positioned itself as a go-to destination for fintech innovation with a favorable regulatory environment through the financial-free zones. Emerging markets are expected to account for a growing proportion of global revenue. The share of revenue in LATAM, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia (ex-China) is expected to double from 15% in 2022 to 29% by 2028, as per McKinsey & Company. Hence, being headquartered in the Middle East, specifically the UAE, enables us to leverage this opportunity.

How do you identify and capitalize on new business opportunities in the market, and can you share some examples of successful partnerships or collaborations that you have initiated to expand the company’s market presence?

Capitalizing on business opportunities is vital for geographic expansion and supporting the overall business development function. Our approach is centered around providing value to the customer by solving their problems and making their lives easier. I feel that for any business idea, feature, or initiative, there must be a strong ambition for problem-solving, which is validated by extensive user research. Pivoting based on user feedback in a quick and agile manner defines the success of the project.

We are driven by the Human Center Design (HCD) approach. This approach centers around meeting customer requirements and validating through extensive end-user research any new development that we undertake. a three-pronged approach that starts with regular user research, internal brainstorming, and ideation from across the company and explores market dynamics and the competitive landscape to identify and work on the most valuable ideas and initiatives.

Identifying adjacencies and leveraging synergies with potential partners while collaborating is very important. We have the platform at the global level and business vertices across geographies to explore potential markets through a collaborative approach with our group’s local branches in the country to leverage the local market knowledge.

From a global partnership perspective, we are in the process of finalizing our partnership with a global provider that will help with expansion via a fully integrated white-labeled solution.

We have encouraging market feedback and ambitious plans of collaboration across multiple partners to provide value to our clients through innovative solutions focused on delivering income to employees. The idea is to deploy offerings from across the financial requirements on one platform.

What metrics do you use to measure the success of your commercial initiatives, and how do you track and analyze these metrics?

This is an area I’m keeping close track of and am very passionate about. As Clive Humby said, “Data is the new oil.”

There are multiple metrics that we use to measure the success of our commercial initiatives, which include:

  • Customer acquisition costs include all enablers at the user level. A direct rail model helps to keep the cost on the lower side. This, coupled with digital awareness and marketing strategies, allows us to build focused engagements with our target audience, lowering the overall cost of acquisition substantially.
  • Revenue and revenue potential. Alternate revenue streams are created through continuous developments, partnerships, and collaboration initiatives. Recurring revenue streams are given enhanced focus as they enable certainty in revenue generation. The lifetime value of the end user is determined by the stickiness and stability of the customers.
  • Value creation and validation of new developments with projected revenue forecasts are critical to measuring success. Clear ownership of product-level revenue, i.e., P&L, is a critical enabler that defines revenue accountability.

Building discipline around periodic tracking of key matrices across the organization is critical to monitoring and driving focus on the bite-size goals leading to the overall key performance indicators.

How do you stay updated with the latest market trends and customer preferences to inform your commercial strategies?

We are a customer-centric venture that leverages the Human Center Design approach, which requires extensive user research and user validation prior to progressing any idea, product, or initiative.

Continuously evaluating competitors to understand their products, features, and unique selling propositions to gather customer insights and understand innovation-led product creation the market is offering to benchmark and ideate for further innovation, “The light bulb effect.”

The competitive landscape, new entrants locally and globally, the regulatory landscape, tech developments, and evolving market dynamics provide indications of evolving market trends. There is certainly no lack of upcoming innovations, and companies and governments are looking at new ways of doing business.

I really enjoy engagements with the fintech community and attending fintech events in the region, which provide learning opportunities from the industry, regulators, peers, and innovators. I also stay in touch with the alumni from Columbia Business School, NYC, to keep abreast of the latest tech, financial, and fintech developments globally.

Please give us a few testimonials from your clients and awards or recognition that accurately highlight your achievements in the corporate niche.

myZoi is focusing on a micro-segment of the demographics, which is essentially providing comprehensive digital financial services and financial literacy to the underbanked globally. We are starting with the UAE first and then plan to expand across the region and globally. The initial feedback we received was the following:

  • A CFO of one of the largest retail conglomerates in the region said that myZoi is a creditable partner offering a bank-grade solution catering to the end-to-end payroll and financial services requirements of their blue-collar workers. They mentioned that other payroll providers cover employee needs only partially, while myZoi is seen as a comprehensive partner.
  • Group Treasurer of a large local conglomerate working across multiple industries mentioned that the value they see for their employees will lead to an employee wellbeing partnership, they liked the easy user experience of myZoi, available in native languages.
  • A Dubai-based multinational conglomerate involved in retailing apparel, footwear, consumer electronics, cosmetics, and beauty products commented that the myZoi offering promotes the social aspects of ESG, which is a key initiative for the group, along with enhancing the sustainability agenda.
  • The finance head of one of the larger courier companies in South Asia mentioned that myZoi solves their employees’ payroll requirements comprehensively, and they relied on the paperless digital employee onboarding process, which was easy and took their employees a few minutes.