Ambareen Musa of UAE became a little frustrated because she bought a new car in Dubai and when she received her bill for her monthly payment, she was surprised with the amount. She was actually paying $140 more than her expected monthly installment and wanted to know the exact reason why.
She called the loan officer first and after looking into the issue, he couldn’t give an answer; even the manager didn’t know as well. After about 3 months, she decided to go to the head office and she was referred to the London headquarters, which is a very large international bank.
She got her answer eventually and learned the difference between a flat rate and a reducing rate; this is primarily the reason why it is important to compare guarantor loans and understand their terms and conditions. With that, she realized that there is a lack of financial education in the UAE for which she said, “People didn’t understand the basics about money.”
And with that, she created a company. Entrepreneurs, like Musa, have that inkling need of solving this problem in the society. After working for 15 years in the banking sector as management consultant, she realized there is a great need to be educated the people of UAE about handling money.
Musa launched Souqalmal, which is “money market” in Arabic. Souqalmal is a comparison website that aims to help residents in UAE to save time and money in comparing loans, mortgages, credit cards, and other financial products; having a tagline that is, “Compare before you say ‘I do’”.
Musa said, “We want to build awareness, to help people understand finances and have a vision. We want to be the number one financial educator of the region.”
“Comparison is non-existent here, unlike in the US. The goal is to put the consumer in the driver’s seat. In America, there are sites that compare credit cards, loans, and other financial products, such as LendingTree, MoneySuperMarket, and Bankrate,” she added.
In her home country (the UAE), her primary goal is to generate awareness in a society that only has little financial transparency. Take for instance, there are 50 banks in the UAE, “Many people don’t understand the banking industry here, and the difference between certain terms,” Musa said, citing the previous example of the differences between reducing rates and flat rates.
Her timing is on the dot since there is greater focus on the issue as time goes by. As a matter of fact, there is also an urge in the region to teach the public, such as in Saudi Arabia, where she also launched Souqalmal. Her primary goal is financial education, teaching the society to read the smaller print and learning about hidden fees. She said, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”