The Middle East and Africa (MEA) region is generally an up and coming region with respect to its wider economic development. Specifically, the region has seen a growth and importance in fintech, producing its own unique innovations, entrepreneurs and thought leaders in the space. As The FinTech Times in September celebrates the Women in Fintech we take a moment to hear more from some of the leading female leaders in both the Middle East and Africa. One of them is Nejoud Al Mulaik who is from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is an expert in fintech and the Director at Fintech Saudi. She was previously a banker.
Nejoud has worked for 10-years at JPMorgan Chase Bank in the corporate investment banking space.
She has vast experience in building client relationships and portfolios across finance, industry, and the
public sector, managing corporate sales portfolio for large corporates in Saudi Arabia, played vital roles in logistics, office management, human resource development, and event management, as well as business management and core banking services.
In early 2018 Nejoud joined the Small & Medium Size Enterprises General Authority (SMEA/ Monshaat) as International Strategic Partnership Director. There she managed international relationships for SMEs including
startups and entrepreneurs to attract and design the desired partnerships to achieve growth and economic contribution across industries.
In October 2018 Nejoud was appointed as the Fintech Saudi Director. Fintech Saudi is part of the Financial Sector Development Program (FSDP) and sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), helping enable and build the financial technology ecosystem in Saudi Arabia.
Describe your career journey
I started my career in early 2008 with JPMorgan Chase Bank in Saudi Arabia , I became the first female hired by the bank back then, where I started in an admin role supporting the CEO & other lines of businesses during the set-up phase for the newly established operational activities of the JPMorgan Chase branch in Saudi Arabia
As JPMorgan expanded locally with treasury, cash management & corporate banking services, in 2010 I had the opportunity move to a core banking role and cover relationships & sales management as an analyst, later an associate for large corporates & multinational corporations (MNCs).
After 10 years in the banking sector with JPM, in 2018 I had an opportunity to move to the Small & Medium size Enterprises Authority (Monshaat) as Director for International Strategic Partnership, which was an amazing opportunity and close up chance to be involved at the heart of one of the most important Saudi Vision 2030 venues to diversify the kingdoms economy. However, my background, expertise and my heart were still close to banking & the financial sector. Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself I was extremely delighted to have been chosen to be part of the Fintech Saudi initiative to lead and support the efforts of the central bank (SAMA) in building the foundations of the ecosystem in Saudi.
As a recognised thought leader and a female, what difficulties have you faced in your career?
I’d rather using the term “challenging ”, moving forward in banking & with my current role leading. The Fintech Saudi initiative was and still always an interesting learning curve that requires ongoing progress on developing industrial knowledge, defending a business cases, and deliver results, keeping up with regulatory & compliance requirements, assess risks and learn how to make decisions, along with ensuring that my communication skills are effective and social and emotional capabilities are professionally demonstrated while working with colleagues, clients, and stakeholders.
The road to any career progression would be bumpy at times connecting with colleagues and mentors seeking a second opinion and advice was one the most important elements on overcoming challenges.
What are the future trends and predictions you see happening in the region?
Even with the current economic conditions, payments and alternative lending will still remain pioneers within the fintech verticals. We already witnessed strong partnerships and investments from banks with some fintechs to capture market shares, We will see more industrial fintechs enter the market, mainly in the healthcare and real estate sector.
I would expect that some central banks in our region will take further efforts in building use cases for CBDCs and test them for retail activities, with open data and open banking current movement in our region. We have already seen some progress driving big tech and telcos to navigate the financial sector in certain regulated activities, “interconnectedness” will be the driver of new era in the financial sector
Despite the low overall global representation of female in leadership positions in the financial sector including the emerging fintech industry, we have seen growth in the number of fintech female founders in MEA. In our “Fintech Saudi Founders Network,” we are dedicating certain programs driven by collaboration between fintech hubs in the GCC to support women in fintech and the digital sector, which we believe will support the already accelerated women empowerment efforts in both the public & private sector. Fintech is one of the unique growing industries where we believe women can impact strongly in both financial solutions and decision making – by being founders, chairwomen, board members and hold executive positions.
What advice and recommendations do you want to give future female entrepreneurs and thought leaders who are based in the Middle East & Africa (MEA) region?
As for female leaders in the field, mastering the ability to juggle between career progression and personal prioritization is key. Taking risks is “unavoidable” my advice is to mitigate risk carefully but without shying away completely, especially for female entrepreneurs in the field, and be visible in every venue that supports your goals and presents business growth opportunities.
For future female leaders in the financial & digital sector , “change is constant” and happens overnight, always approach & find mentors and be part of the networks within the field and actively voice your opinion with confidence.