Iskandar Najjar: Equiti Group CEO talks regulation, Africa, multi-asset offering and crypto

Rick Steves

Equiti Group has had an impressive year in 2021. The broker has doubled down on its expansion efforts across the globe as it prepares a multi asset offering. 

The fintech firm has grown to become a leader within the trading industry, which begs the questions “how does Equiti engages new challenges?” and “what is the future of the industry?”

We spoke to Iskandar Najjar, Chief Executive Officer at Equiti Group, to ascertain where the multi asset broker is headed as we count the days for 2022.

The FX and CFD industry has been presented with several challenges in the last few years, mostly due to new market dynamics and regulation. What is Equiti Group’s growth strategy in the face of these challenges?

The challenges and exponential growth experienced in the industry over the past few years are evolutionary.

Even in the face of declining profitability, increases in the complexity and costs of operating, and additional levels of global regulatory and compliance reporting, the industry continues to grow. Regulators are exploring ways to manage emerging trends and scale of growth as the industry evolves.

Much of our work over the past year has been focused on building the scalability of our operations to position Equiti to deliver our global offerings in local markets, and provide the most advanced client experience in our sector. This includes adapting to market trends, meeting client demands and managing growth, while in line with regulatory controls.

In recent months, we have structured Equiti to customize our offerings to be readily rolled-out in local markets and to customize our client requirements. For example, our payment systems cater for locally preferred payment service providers (PSPs) in Africa, LATAM, and the MENA region. These are the systems that clients in local markets are familiar with and trust. Our robust back-office system is also well-positioned for customization.

How soon do you expect the Africa expansion to bear fruit?

Africa is a long-term play for us and is part of our global strategy. We are working to embed Equiti in local markets across the continent.

The complexity of working in new markets is a constant learning experience, but we definitely have the appetite for Africa.

In Africa we apply our 70/30 principle, 70% of our product being global and 30% being localized for each market. An example of a localized product offering is in Kenya, where in April 2021 we introduced to clients derivative contracts offered on the NSE (Nairobi Stock Exchange) Derivatives Market. We remain the only online broker offering NSE Derivatives in this market.

In Kenya, we are number one in market share and currently on a mission to improve financial literacy for one million Kenyans. The team are working relentlessly through workshops, seminars, webinars, podcasts, and multiple social channels to make this a reality.

Our time in Kenya has been very fruitful and we look forward to replicating this success across the African continent.

Your approach of working with local regulator’s guidelines must significantly make an impact on Equiti’s compliance team. How busy is the HR department?

It has been very busy on the compliance side as well as all aspects of the business due to our strong growth. Compliance and regulatory requirements are a key part of all our new offerings and markets.

Our approach to new markets, is to work with local market regulators to advance the local financial markets. In markets where regulation is emerging, we share our expertise and experience to evolve regulations, and to establish controls that protect local market participants and introduce best global practice.

We use the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidelines and Code of Conduct as the benchmark and adapt it to local requirements.

Equiti Group is about to add cash equities, fixed income, futures and options, and effectively becoming a multi asset broker. Where do you go from there?

Equiti will significantly expand our multi-asset offering across all jurisdictions. As part of our global expansion plans, Equiti Capital is working towards a Direct Market Access (DMA) offering, which will give our clients access to futures and options, as well as fully paid equities listed and traded on major global exchanges such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Additionally, with the launch of our Equiti Trading App, our aim is to provide a single one-stop-shop business model that will service all client requirements, and facilitate ease of trading, whether it be trading cash equities or margin trading.

We are also potentially considering adding a digital bank offering providing customers access to traditional banking services in addition to trading and investing services – essentially embedding trading and investing into people’s lifestyles and bridging the gap between trading and (e)commerce, which is where we see the direction of our industry heading in the next few years.

Our vision is to create a best-in-class client journey that allows our clients to experience our global offering – wherever they are in the world.

Will crypto become an inevitable addition to a multi asset offering?

Yes, there has been significant demand for cryptocurrencies. We are working on different crypto solutions to be a significant provider. We are looking at providing hundreds of cryptos, and we look to roll that out by Q1 of 2022.

We believe that there is still a massive space for regulated brokers such as ourselves to be able to provide the solution to clients for them to speculate on cryptos rather than hold cryptos but in a regulated environment.

We are focused on finding gaps and opportunities within the crypto market. Overall, our core focus is to provide online trading services across different assets, so naturally cryptocurrencies would fall into that space.

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