Nisa Ismail: Empowering Financial Inclusion through Innovative Fintech Solutions

Nisa Ismaila

Nisa Ismail, CEO, Sedania As Salam Capital Sdn Bhd (SASC)

In the fast-paced world of Finance and Technology, there are only a handful of leaders who could make a real difference by helping the industry to emerge as one of the most dynamic sources of income. Today we try to throw some light on the awe-inspiring life and journey of a leader, who with her unflagging determination, passion, and perseverance undertook the reins of transforming the world of finance through innovative fintech solutions. Since she stepped into the world of finance, Nisa Ismail, the CEO of Sedania as Sedania As Salam Capital Sdn Bhd (SASC), has been at the forefront of a journey that vouched for innovation to be the only measure that can transform lives sustainably.

With an illustrious career spanning over 25 years, Nisa has been in the limelight for spearheading some major initiatives that have set new benchmarks, especially within the Fintech and Airlines industries. Graduating with an LLB degree from Oxford Brookes University, UK, in 1997, Nisa had the privilege to work across diverse industries, which enabled her to gain a wide spectrum of knowledge and expertise required to handle different market conditions. This laid the foundation for her inimitable success as an entrepreneur and CEO of Sedania as Sedania As Salam Capital Sdn Bhd (SASC), the Fintech subsidiary of Sedania Innovator Berhad, in 2019.

As the Head of Loyalty for Malaysia Airlines, Nisa spearheaded the transformation of its Enrich loyalty programme driven primarily by initiatives which vastly strengthened its appeal amongst the wider mass market. This further built upon her prior achievements in transforming AirAsia’s strategic areas of ancillary services through initiatives such as spearheading the development of a travel life cycle campaign for kids and families. Her expertise and experience in marketing subsequently brought her towards the fintech space, where her achievements prior to SASC included establishing BankBazaar Malaysia’s business readiness for marketing, partnerships, and business development.

With her extensive experience in leading, transforming, and catalyzing growth for organizations, Nisa was appointed as CEO of SASC in 2019. As CEO, her responsibilities encompass managing the company’s financial performance, developing new business strategies, and overseeing commercial sales, partnerships, marketing, and product development.

The inception of Sedania Innovator Berhad

The inception of Sedania Innovator Berhad, SASC’s parent company, is a story of innovation and a commitment to improving lives sustainably. Founded in 2004 by Datuk Azrin Mohd Noor, Sedania Innovator Berhad introduced Airtime Sharing, a peer-to-peer global solution that revolutionized convenience among mobile users. Building on this success, the company was listed on the Ace Market of Bursa Malaysia in 2015, paving the way for its ventures into fintech, sustainable energy, and sustainable healthcare.

Nisa’s role as CEO of SASC encompasses everything that came under the purview of the company’s operation. From managing financial performance to developing and implementing new business strategies, she steered SASC’s growth by nurturing commercial sales, partnerships, marketing, and product development. Her vision centers around promoting innovative Shariah-compliant fintech solutions and enhancing Sedania As Salam’s presence as a local and regional Islamic fintech provider. Nisa Ismail’s dream is rooted in her purpose of improving financial inclusion for underserved communities, empowering them with the tools and resources to thrive in the digital age.

Subverting difficulties

Every success story inspires us not because they meet success, but solely because they all unfold the tale of winning battles against adversity and marching ahead with a decisive mindset. Nisa Ismail’s journey is one such tale of riding out the storm of difficulties and reaching the dream destination. As a transformative leader in various industries, Nisa had to face the major challenge of adapting to rapidly changing market conditions and technologies. Armed with strong communication skills, Nisa navigated through such complexities and obstacles. In her experience, half the battle is won when we can effectively communicate our ideas, beliefs, and vision to our people and they start to relate to our mission. Through effective communication and working in close proximity with her employees, she was able to gain the trust and confidence of her fellow workers, board members, investors, and stakeholders. The leader affirms her faith in promoting transparency as the key to a successful business venture. As she puts it, “It is important to be transparent and clear about the purpose of the transformation, as well as what’s in it for the board members, employees, investors, and stakeholders to ensure the success of the transformation and changes.”

CEO with a difference

What sets Nisa apart as a successful CEO are her distinguished qualities and her ability to cultivate those qualities in herself and her team. Strong communication skills play a pivotal role in building relationships with financial services institutions and guiding the professional development of her team. Good management skills enable effective resource allocation, strategic thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making. Nisa encourages continuous learning, creating a growth-oriented work culture where knowledge is shared, and empowerment is instilled. She values her team’s contributions, encourages continuous learning, and empowers them to take charge of their responsibilities.

Workplace culture

The six attributes of “Spirit, strategy, strength, speed, stamina, and style” form the nucleus of a deeply committed and progressive organization like Sedania. Along with meeting her business goals, Nisa looks after the growth and development of her employees, which helps her to build a strong employer-employee relationship and enhance productivity. The CEO emphasizes building a flexible and inclusive work culture, where everyone enjoys the freedom of expression and that keeps them connected to the mission and vision of the employer.

Awards and recognitions

During her glorious days as the CEO of Sedania, Nisa Ismail’s impeccable leadership style has brought some most prestigious awards and recognitions to the house. The most notable of them are

The World Business Outlook Awards, for being the Best Islamic Fintech Solutions Provider Malaysia, 2023.
Global Financial Market Review (GFM) for being the Best Islamic Fintech Malaysia 2023.

Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA), 2022, for the Best Technology Platform in Islamic Banking & Finance.
Finally, Sedania was also honored with the title of being the Most Innovative Islamic Platform- Tawarruq, 2022 (International Finance).

Sharing pearls

It is the entrepreneur’s long years of dedication, knowledge, and experience that compounded into making her the person she is today. Driven by an unrelenting passion and enthusiasm to bring about meaningful change by uplifting lives, Nisa Ismail turned every vulnerability in her way into a new opportunity. Her idea of leadership is embedded in her philosophy demonstrating the values of integrity, transparency, and accountability. Reflecting upon her strengths and weaknesses, Nisa focuses on her perception of business as a journey of self-discovery and self-growth where one should be open to changes, embrace challenges and break boundaries. Her advice to aspiring leaders is to cultivate self-awareness, build strong relationships, and be role models for their teams.

Future roadmap

Looking ahead, Nisa is excited about the future of SASC. The company’s exclusive partnership with Wasiyyah Shoppe Berhad aims to develop a first-ever digital Hibah platform which facilitates efficient digital Islamic inheritance and wealth planning solutions. This latest innovative fintech solution has the potential to help mitigate the concerning issue of approximately RM70 billion worth of assets belonging to Muslims in Malaysia being recognised as unclaimable.

SASC also plans to drive financial inclusivity through their GoHalal Financing Program which aims to deliver Shariah compliant financing that will foster an Islamic financing environment as well as provide more convenient and secure access to financing for the Malaysian community. Nisa is also spearheading SASC’s strategic collaboration with globally renowned technology player Codebase Technologies to accelerate digital banking adoption via the development of an all-in-one digital Islamic banking platform.

With her passion, leadership, and commitment to improving lives sustainably, Nisa Ismail stands as a beacon of inspiration and transformation. In the ever-evolving world of finance, the leader continues to pave the way for innovation and inclusion, leaving an indelible mark on the industry and society as a whole.