Intelligent SME interviews Osama Al Rahma, CEO of Al Fardan Exchange LLC, about the importance of catering to SMBs in the current market, remittance business and their goals and vision for the future.
Al Fardan Group is involved in several businesses in real estate, high-class jewellery, financial services and trading. Please share the story behind establishing Al Fardan Exchange in 1971.
Al Fardan Group was formed in 1954, 17 years before the UAE came into being. The group’s foundation was laid by the late Haji Ibrahim Hasan Al Fardan, who was a pioneering entrepreneur in the country’s traditional pearls and jewellery industry.
The group soon diversified its interests, and expanded into real estate through Al Fardan Real Estate. Al Fardan Exchange was founded in 1971 to serve the community with world-class remittance and exchange services, helping residents send funds to their friends and families back home.
Today, Al Fardan Group is one of the UAE’s leading business enterprises, with diversified interests in some of the UAE’s strategically important industries.
What is the vision of your company? What are your goals?
Our vision is to be the exchange of choice with the best innovative services and products that bring happiness to our clients.
Our mission is to provide advanced CRM system to our customers using mobile apps and digital technology to enhance their experience.
What are the services offered by Al Fardan Exchange in addition to money transfer?
Our services are tailor-made and diversified based on our customer base, which has a good blend of nationalities from different demographics. So we try to be innovative while offering services that are not limited to foreign currency exchange or instant money transfers but goes beyond and covers online money transfers, multi-currency prepaid cards, wage protection system, saving and investment schemes, kiosk payments, utility bill payments, airline bookings, mobile top ups and more.
What’s new at Al Fardan Exchange in terms of products and services?
The Internet of Things has changed the world we live in and consequently, has changed the way we live as well. In the past, people used to come to us to send money to their families and beloved ones, knowing that their money will reach after one or two days; nowadays, the customers are more demanding and are willing to pay more to get their money transferred immediately. That’s why we have recently introduced our global payments brand – AFEXRemit – that connects all payment eco-systems under a unified platform and can deliver payments instantly.
What are the special services and solutions that you provide to your corporate clients?
We have dedicated counters at all our branches for the corporate clients.
We provide tailor-made solutions for their requirements of remittances, corporate transactions and foreign currency exchange, equipped with a very advanced treasury department to keep them updated about the market, products and services.
We also provide a multi-currency Visa prepaid card with the most advanced security features that can be used to manage their official company trips since it offers more convenience than other debit/credit cards. They get special foreign exchange rates on their corporate transactions, can pay for their airline bookings and they can also invest in the savings and investment schemes that we provide in collaborations with our partners.
What kind of services do you offer to the SMBs?
SMBs are the backbone of any economy, and the UAE economy is not an exception. They represent more than 30% of our customers and we offer them the best services tailored at the most affordable prices.
We have recently introduced our global payments brand – AFEXRemit – that connects all payment eco-systems under a unified platform and can deliver payments instantly.
How is Al Fardan Exchange a customer-centric organisation? What are you doing to improve customer service? What dedicated resources do you deploy to provide better service to customers?
Our mission is to create a happy experience for our clients. This is delivered by our competent staff that understands customer requirements and provides excellent products and services, with the best offers and a dedicated call centre team and agents.
We are incredibly proud to serve over 200 nationalities from all socio-economic demographics, with a network of more than 60 branches spanning across the country and strong relationships with over 150 corresponding banks.
Correspondent banks and agents are the backbone of remittance businesses worldwide. Are all of them partners of Al Fardan Exchange? Please elaborate on these partnerships.
Al Fardan Exchange has been in the remittance business for the last five decades and that legacy has given us the right to be selective when partnering with a new bank anywhere in the world.
We are committed to provide the best experience to our clients and that experience begins at our branches and is extended to the beneficiaries as well.
Whenever we see a need to add additional banks to our network, we always prioritize our customers. We choose the top banks, the ones who share the same vision as us and work that extra mile to provide the most advanced and smooth-sailing experience for their clients.
The remittance business in the UAE and especially in Dubai is saturated. What innovative ideas help you stay ahead in the race?
We use advanced analytics tools to continuously measure and enhance our performance and stay ahead of the game. Competition is tough with more than 140 exchange houses in the UAE and more than 1000 of their branches available at every corner of every street, but that neither stops nor discourages us. In fact, we were the first to launch prepaid cards in the market and the first to provide remittances through self-serviced kiosks. Currently, we are working on other innovative solutions that would surely add value to our clients.
How strong is the reach of Al Fardan Exchange in the UAE? What other channels have you deployed in addition to the branch network?
In addition to a network of more than 60 branches spanning across the country, we believe in creating and maintaining strong relationships with the banks. Our employees are highly trained and represent over 22 nationalities, making it easy for us to offer the extremely high level of customer service that is central to our business.
We are planning to add 10 more branches at various strategic locations so that our customers can reach us quickly and without any hassle.
We also have a kiosk service in collaboration with our strategic partners that has given us an extra mileage to reach our customers. With thousands of kiosks available in every street and every shopping centre, we have become pretty accessible for our customers.
SMBs are the backbone of any economy, and the UAE economy is not an exception.
In respect to money exchange transactions, what are the key issues in the sector and how is Al Fardan Exchange dealing with them?
The dynamic of regulations, AML/CFT and the de-risking requirements, which banks are adopting worldwide are the biggest challenges to the exchange houses in the region. At Al Fardan Exchange, we keep upgrading our standards and systems to comply with the international and local requirements.
How do you see Al Fardan Exchange evolve five years from now?
Our vision is to be the exchange of choice with the best innovative services and products that bring happiness to our clients while supporting our nation’s economic growth. We aim to be among those who would be celebrating the nation’s victory by witnessing the world’s most advanced event of Expo 2020.