Power to make difference keeps me going

With a passion for social development and philanthropy, Naureen got affiliated with the microfinance sector early on in her career. Having worked in credit ratings with the Pakistan Credit Rating Agency (PACRA), and specializing in microfinance, banking and NBFCs, equipped her with the relevant expertise.  It also presented her with the opportunity to work with the SMART Campaign – a project that has been instrumental in strengthening her calling towards accelerating financial inclusion.

With an aim to address the challenges faced by microfinance institutions, she teamed up with her friend Humza Hussain and co-founded CheckIn Solutions – a FinTech focused on enhancing operational efficiencies of microfinance providers. However, they experienced a lackadaisical response of the sector towards digitization with heavy anchoring around legacy systems. During this time, they approached Mr. Nadeem Hussain who mentored them and with whom they co-founded Tez Financial Services.

Naureen has a degree in finance and is a member of the CFA community. She has also studied the field of Inclusive Finance at the Harvard Business School. Aside to her passion for micro finance, she is a member of The Pakistan Society for Planned Parenthood – an NGO working on women empowerment, planned parenthood, education and mental health.

Based in Karachi, Pakistan, Naureen Hyat took time to respond to queries from AsiaBizToday.

Activities that Tez Financial Services undertakes

Tez Financial Services is the first fully digital financial institution in Pakistan, providing basic financial services to the unbanked and under-banked masses of Pakistan via a data-driven smartphone application. Tez, as the name implies in Urdu, provides Fast and Smart financial services fulfilling customer needs in a matter of minutes. Tez aims to reduce the financial vulnerability of the masses through a complete slate of financial services offering nano-loans, innovative savings solutions, health and life insurance. Our ecosystem combines the synergies of strategic partnerships with telcos, banks, payment providers, insurance companies and various consumer-oriented businesses. Tez has grown to be the fastest growing financial institution in Pakistan having served customers across 160+ cities.

Trigger and motivation to get into this

Over 100 million people in Pakistan do not have access to basic financial services. These are people living on the edge – where minute fluctuations in cash flows could impair their ability to meet their day-to-day needs. In the absence of suitable collaterals and credit histories, financial institutions rely on time-consuming, costly and human-intensive processes to assess risk, deterring their interest in the unbanked segments. On the contrary, the digital railroad offers an opportunity whereby Pakistan has one of the highest tele-density in the region, supplemented by high smartphone penetration and vast 3G/4G coverage.

I believe that the most sustainable mechanism to alleviating poverty is economic empowerment and equipping people with affordable and sustainable access to financial services. The cusp of finance and digital serves just that!

Your experiences in this leadership position

It has been a quite an evolutionary journey that has taught me the significance of insightful awareness – the understanding that every context requires a different skillset and strengths, hence awareness of self, the team, the customers, the investors, the regulators, and the partners is imperative to be able to take timely and apt decisions for institutional success. These experiences range from understanding the customer to pitching endlessly to investors, from keeping up-to-date with ever-evolving tech to recruiting tirelessly for the perfect human resource, from building partnerships to managing competition, from months of designing products to pivoting to serve changing needs, from building customer trust to striving towards a culture of learning, creativity, and devotion. It has been all that and much more and the journey continues to be enriched by the day.

The important factors that keep you going

It is a culmination of a few yet, pivotal interdependent factors. The base is rooted in a sense of purpose that transcends into a deeper sense of responsibility – the responsibility towards striving for inclusion, the responsibility towards bridging the gulf between wealth and poverty. This is paralleled with the grit, support and selfless devotion of my Co-Founders and Team to the very same purpose. As we say it at Tez – One Team, One Dream! And foremost is our Customers – the Pakistani masses – for whom our services could mean the difference between food and hunger, health and ailment, education and oblivion. I reckon that is more than ample to keep me going.

Challenges faced in your initiatives

Being the first of its kind, fully digital financial institution in Pakistan has certainly presented us with a set of obstacles, including creating awareness amongst customers and relevant stakeholders, bearing high costs of hosting on local cloud, dearth of local “patient” capital, and legacy mind-sets of conventional institutions deterring collaborations. I would not attribute any of these challenges towards me being a woman. In fact, in some cases, being a woman has served to be my strength, in particular the ability to focus on a human-centric approach in a high-tech-oriented company.

Source of inspiration

People around us. I believe that everyone around us has something to teach us – it’s just a matter of perspective and the keenness to truly see.

Proudest moment so far

Goes without saying that I am utterly grateful for the recognition and various achievements of Tez. However, I think I’m yet to achieve that moment that I could truly feel proud of – maybe that’s what keeps me striving towards it.

Your definition of success

I would not weigh success against any number. Success is being able to change even one life for the better or creating that domino effect where other players could build upon Tez’s initiatives and platform, making a difference to far more lives than we could as a single institution.

Your Advice to other aspiring Entrepreneurs, especially women?

Follow the 4 P’s: Purpose, Passion, Perseverance and Pivot. Having Purpose at the heart of whatever you do is imperative. Once you have set your eye on that purpose, pursue it with Passion and Perseverance, but also with the flexibility to Pivot if the changing environment calls for it. The only thing certain is change, and if you can survive through the troughs of change, your peaks will be even higher.