Mirna Sleiman is the founder and CEO of Fintech Galaxy, a crowdsourcing platform that aims to connect the fintech ecosystem. Mirna has over fifteen years of experience in government relations, business strategy, digital communications and journalism, mostly within the MENA region. Driven by passion for innovation and positive impact, Mirna has a track record in leading digital transformation projects, marketing communications strategies and global partnerships with public and private entities, with a particular focus on economic development, regulatory infrastructure and financial markets. She has previously served as the Head of the Government Sector and Head of Business Development at Thomson Reuters across MENA. Currently, she sits on the advisory board of the Union of Arab Banks and MENA Research Partners.
What inspired you to found Fintech Galaxy and what were the main challenges you faced?
Mirna Sleiman: I’m a very passionate person driven by impact and the multiplier effect of connecting people. I’ve enjoyed this as a journalist and during my stint in the executive world. I’ve always had a dream to start my own company that would digitize me…make this passion and desire to impact lives touching as many lives as possible. That’s where the idea of a crowdsourcing platform came from.
Can you tell us about your leadership at Thomson Reuters (as Head of Government Sector and Head of Business Development) and some of the initiatives you led?
Mirna Sleiman: I spent three years at Thomson Reuters on the commercial side where I led the strategic relations and public policy function for two years and then the government sector in the MENA region. I enjoy dealing with public sector because whatever you do has an impact on economies rather than specific companies. It was challenging because the company wasn’t geared to deal with long term transformative projects but we had great time advising entities in countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain on transformative projects. We helped Malta screen applicants for its citizenship program using our compliance tools, we also worked with Egypt’s ministry of finance on tax projects, advised the UAE government on its innovation strategy and contributed to Dubai’s success in becoming the global capital of Islamic economy.
In your opinion, what are some key opportunities in fintech going forward?
Mirna Sleiman: It’s an exciting year for financial technology globally. We will see more regulators opening up sandboxes and allowing the experimentation of digital currencies. We will also see large technology companies like IBM and Microsoft investing in fintech startups. The Middle East region will become more mature and a lot more attractive to global fintech players planning expansion beyond US, Europe and Asia. We also see hubs like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain playing a bigger role connecting Asian and African fintech markets.
What are some unique aspects of the fintech space in the UAE?
Mirna Sleiman: UAE is the most sophisticated fintech market across the middle east region. It enjoys a 30 percent market share, followed by Jordan and Egypt. The UAE Has two major fintech hubs…the Abu Dhabi Global Market and DIFC Hive. Both are attracting global and local fintech startups and playing a significant role in connecting startups to banks, and to investors.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Mirna Sleiman: I can’t think of a woman who had a significant impact on my life other than my mom. She was a role model and she ingrained me the love and compassion needed to survive life and learn from its lessons. I took from my mom the personality, the infinite desire to give and the curiosity to be more and do more. She passed away four years ago but her soul is with me day and night.
What advice do you have for individuals interested in digital marketing and strategic advisory professions?
Mirna Sleiman: Digital marketing is now part of every business and it’s the future. While the universal marketing principles and strategy development techniques are still the same, new marketing tools are now needed to cope with the sophisticated customer. I advise all entrepreneurs who have a dream to chase that and make it a reality… there is no perfect time. Today is as good as tomorrow…just do it and make it better based on market feedback.
What are your favorite books, websites, films and resources?
Mirna Sleiman: I’m addicted to reading…my kindle is my best friend. I read spiritual books for Osho and I like Dan Brown…sometimes unwind with Daniel Steele. I play squash, love dancing and do a lot of meditating in nature. Watching sunrise and sunset is my therapy. It’s fascinating how the sun goes to rest and wakes up the next day fresh and new. Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise. Life is a series of thousands of tiny miracles and there is always something to be grateful for.