In a nondescript shipping container, on a cargo boat in the middle of the Persian Gulf, lies a custom-designed precision laser computer numeric control (CNC) machine one year in the making. Khaled Mazeedi, the founder and CEO of Swipemint, keenly awaits its arrival. En route to Dubai from its factory in Frankfurt, Germany, this cutting-edge piece of German engineering is the key to his business: ultra-luxe, ultra-custom premium metal credit cards.
Each card, as unique as its eventual owner, will put Mazeedi on track to hit a multi-million dollar revenue target this year, double his 2019 projections and well above his most optimistic pre-pandemic projections. Swipemint has already raised $US 2 million in seed funding (at an undisclosed valuation) in a round led by a group of private European bankers.
The laser machine allows Mazeedi to do something that no other bank in the world is able to offer; a fully-bespoke custom metal credit card. “The only connection you have with your bank is the card you’re issued. At Swipemint, we believe that your card should be as unique as you are.
We knew that without this novel laser machine, we could never offer the class-leading performance and supreme of a card,” Mazeedi noted.
“Swipemint started off in 2019 as a boutique financial brand in Dubai, which was not the real goal of the company,” says the 34-year-old CEO, who previously was an advisor for cryptocurrency exchanges and fintech startups. His ambition, instead, is to go big: evolving his
budding credit card company into a major player in the multi-mullion high-end credit card market.
That’s not out of the question as it may first seem. After all, prior to the pandemic, consumers were already forking over plenty of money to qualify for exclusive banking that offered metal credit cards from companies like Amex, Visa, and the like. Mazeedi’s Swipemint offers an
an interesting proposition by eliminating the qualification process and democratising access to premium cards.
Mirror gold, LV crested engraving, double-layered designs, no two are alike. Mazeedi’s Swipemint states that they can deliver unlimited card variations with its options like metal type, color and design. At the moment, Swipemint offers two spectrums of products. The Monarch
card which converts your plastic card into a metal card with a personalized design, and the Thales card, a privilege program that upgrades your existing card to their trademark metal card with multiple rewards, including access to 1300 airport lounges and 550 hotels across the world-
users also have the benefit of a private wealth manager at their disposal.
Premium banking products are only a sliver of the $US 122 trillion financial industry and roughly 23.11 billion credit, debit, and prepaid cards are currently in circulation worldwide. Third partypremium metal credit card and privilege providers are an emerging segment that is putting a dent within the industry, bullishly led by Mazeedi’s Swipemint.
While overall premium credit card applications - which include metal credit cards - through banks have tanked, Mazeedi says sales for his products have been steadily increasing without any signs of slowing down, even despite the pandemic. “People still want exclusivity and special
services that give them more rewards and benefits, and they are willing to pay for it,” he remarked. That's an understatement, as debit and credit cards are the most frequently used payment methods in the world, and especially during the lockdown, where people still want to
differentiate themselves from one another. This could be the reason why Swipemint’s sales have held steady during the downturn affecting most businesses today.
Yet, plenty could go wrong. Introducing new products in the market is rife with challenges and Swipemint’s privilege program is surely one to face them— nevertheless Mazeedi, who has spent the majority of his adult life marketing products and building brands, is undeterred. A muscular man with a large trimmed beard, he grew up in Boston, in a small town called Lexington, known for being the place where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. His father worked as a venture capitalist and his mother was a school teacher.
As a child, he dreamed of becoming a football player. After studying mechanical engineering at Florida International University, he actually did achieve his childhood dream. He was contracted to play at French club Le Havre FC. In 2010, perhaps surprising even himself, Mazeedi changed careers after discovering a new passion in the field of finance and worked for a number of financial institutions in Kuwait, it was here that he took interest in currency by investing in bitcoin. By 2014, he was based in Dubai as an advisor on blockchain technologies for Keynote
That’s where he first had the idea to improve products using technology. By leveraging insight and his experience working within cryptocurrency and banking, he fused the old with the new, innovating a new product: fully functional metal credit cards converted from plastic bank issued
“Before we came into the market, users were stuck with a limited selection of credit and debit cards. They could only choose only what their banks offered. I thought, why not create a product that's built better, more durable, and offers users unlimited design possibilities? And then I thought, why not offer privileges on those cards too?’” Mazeedi remarked with a smile. “It’s an undisputedly valuable proposition.”
He began to pitch his idea to a number of banks. “They basically told me, ‘Khaled, we are not here to disrupt the industry, our business is for the masses,’” he said.
Frustrated by that experience, he quickly decided to start his own business to take bank issued credit cards and convert them into personalised metal cards. Almost immediately, customers rushed in, and Mazeedi witnessed many of the users craving the same privilege benefits that their banks offered for premium cards. He partnered with global alliances and priority services tolaunch the Thales card. He linked up with industry experts Dr. Petar Stojanov, 39, whom he had teamed up earlier as advisor for blockchain conferences, and Moe Levin, chief executive officer at Keynote. In 2019, Mazeedi and his partners launched Swipemint. Stojanov is now the company’s director, while Levin remains an advisor.
Swipemint’s first challenge was to have a quick turnaround on orders. Mazeedi’s solution was to automate the personalization process, in which he built a software by himself that lets users design their own cards directly on Swipemint’s website; in other words, an online credit card
Combining these tools in technology with innovative financial products transformed Swipemint into a fully fledged fin-tech business, with all of its products manufactured in-house. The platform's seamless online card-builder takes customers through a detailed 5-step ordering
process with the option to select card color, border trim, and a personalized logo. The builder quickly composes the selections into a unique final product. Mazeedi says it can deliver up to 1 billion possible variations.
Mazeedi stresses that because his personalization process is simple and the outcome unique, it has helped Swipemint attract a wide-spectrum of clients, with the majority being owners of cheap and flimsy plastic cards before trading them up for the more durable metal cards. But more than half of Swipemint’s customers traded up their premium cards, he says—a switch he didn’t expect and attributes to people’s gravitation to personalised and unique products.
“Our products make our customers feel special, and entinces them to return as repeat buyers— seeing this trend, especially if the economic downturn lasts a long time— is a good sign and a
key indicator that we are building a larger and more substantial business,” he said.
Swipemint seems to be on its way to democratising financial services, and there more is yet to come, including a plan to plunge into digital currencies. In that vein, Mazeed and Swipemint’s aim is to bridge the gap between fiat and virtual currencies, expanding the company’s current
product range beyond merely converting plastic cards and providing privilege programs, withplans to launch its own digital currency, the ‘Thales Coin’. It is Mazeedi’s hope that Swipemint’s customers will use the digital currency to pay for goods and services with their
“We have all the foundations to eventually launch an ICO that is backed by a strong product,” Mazeedi says. “It could be a new direction for Swipemint—a personalized digital currency