DUBAI (Reuters) – United Arab Emirates investment firm Forsa is hoping to tap the largely overlooked market of wealthy Gulf Arab women with the launch of funds worth 250 million dirhams ($68 million) open to female investors only.
Women in the Gulf hold about $40 billion of the region’s wealth and their earning power is on the rise, attracting a growing number of women-specific investment ventures.
Forsa, set up by government-owned Dubai World in January, offers a 200 million dirham general fund and a 50 million dirham real estate fund which Shamsa Noor Ali Rashid, chief executive of the firm said had proved popular with Emirati women.
Forsa has also joined forces with Dubai firm The National Investor (TNI) to give women more access to investment products.
“The Forsa-TNI venture enables women to partake in the stock and capital markets in the same way that their male counterparts do,” Orhan Osmansoy, chief executive of TNI, told Reuters on the sidelines of a news conference on Monday to launch the funds.
“Women feel more confident and empowered if they are being dealt with by other women.”
Osmansoy said research showed women investors preferred to take lower risks than their male counterparts, and the project sought to put together funds tailored to their demands.
Male relatives have traditionally managed the wealth of women in the conservative Gulf Arab region, but Rashid said females were eager for financial independence.
Forsa, which is open to Emirati and expatriate women with a minimum investment of 50,000 to one million dirhams, is seeking to change traditional mindsets about women entrepreneurs, Rashid said, though it is not mandated to provide financial education.
“Part of our charter is to develop the business leaders of tomorrow and enhance the management capacity of Arab women,” she said. “There are no obstacles in their way, it’s a mindset.”
Several Gulf financial institutions have begun taking steps to better accommodate women. British fund manager Bramdean is also considering introducing its women-only service, Bramdiva, in the Gulf. The service is already available in Britain.
The concept of ladies-only services is not new in the Gulf Arab world, where there are social and sometimes legal restrictions on men and women mixing in public.
“Forsa is about getting women to see what’s possible and how to make their dreams come true,” Rashid said.