After connecting with an expert at one of our Exclusive Talents Workshops with DeFi Talents’ partner Tradias powered by Bankhaus Scheich, DeFi Talents alumna Maha Al-Saadi was offered the position as Director of Compliance and Regulatory Affairs. Marcel Grimm sat down with Maha to find out more about her career path, her new “corporate baby” at Bankhaus Scheich and her experienced benefits of participating in the DeFi Talents program.
Your professional career initially started after completion of your bachelor’s degree in banking and financial studies in Qatar. What were your main career milestones between then and now?
In 2011, I moved to Germany to pursue a Master’s degree in finance law at Goethe University’s institute for finance and law in Frankfurt. Having successfully completed that academic milestone in addition to working for a boutique consultancy as anti-money laundering consultant, I started at Deutsche Börse in 2014, where I engaged in various roles throughout the over eight years I ended up working there. Initially, I was part of the markets data team responsible for the EMIR reporting services implementation and later became a MiFID II/MiFIR National Competent Authorities Liaison Manager for all EU member states.
In 2018, I was selected for Deutsche Börse's "Evolving Leadership Program'', which provided me with a six-month work rotation in the organization's Fintech Hub. The experiences I gained there were my first exposure to Digital Assets and Blockchain infrastructures. I was immediately fascinated by the possibilities of these novel technologies and decided to join the newly established “New Digital Markets'' business unit at Deutsche Börse where I continued with my passion for regulatory affairs and compliance for the proper adaptation of DLT within this major German institution.
Earlier this year I then decided to explore other opportunities in the crypto industry and joined Trade Republic as Senior Expert for crypto asset adaptation, responsible for the secure implementation of new crypto assets for European retail investors, while taking part in the DeFi Talents program. And thanks to the great program, I had the opportunity to participate in an Exclusive Talent Workshop with Bankhaus Scheich and was later offered my current role as Director of Digital Assets Compliance and Regulatory Affairs. Among my key responsibilities is to build up the Bankhaus Scheich’s digital arm Tradias, where I design and implement digital assets compliance, and not to forget to mention my true passion, digital assets related advocacy and regulatory affairs.
You mentioned your first contact with DLT and blockchain technology was in 2018 at Deutsche Börse. Why did you decide to apply for the DeFi Talents program and why would you recommend others to apply?
On a personal level, I was a curious investor the moment that coinbase received its license in Germany, so I decided to use this new opportunity to invest in cryptocurrencies. I also experimented with the meta mask to see whether I could cope without a centralized exchange - and I could, but somehow centralized exchange made the transactions a lot easier to buy and sell and so is now part of my regular Trade Republic savings plan and somewhat of a safety cushion. Since I wanted to deepen my knowledge beyond regulations in the industry, I decided to apply for Frankfurt School Blockchain Center’s DeFi Talents. Of course, the fact that the program is free is crucial to its success. It means that education is accessible and whoever is motivated and has an intention to learn can educate themselves in DeFi. Furthermore, access to mentors, material and the session’s speakers further enhances the self-learning process. The information is available, DeFi Talents supplies expert knowledge, yet talents cannot be spoon fed, dedication and discipline is key. Even after completing the program, the benefits remain. The network of talents and mentors you gain from the program is incredibly valuable and discussions with like minded people, even with different perspectives, make you question your perception of topics and the sources you use to gain knowledge. It is great to see women supporting other women - but not just women, any underrepresented minority in this industry. Even on a personal level, I was able to learn a lot from my fellow talents on how they manage as working mothers which helped me find some comforting validation for the path that I am taking. I am passionate about financial literacy, diversity, inclusion and female rights, something DeFi Talents manages to combine with its initiative.
Maha Al-Saadi and Marcel Grimm at nbx Berlin (November 2022)
A few months ago you started a new chapter at Bankhaus Scheich. What role did DeFi Talents play in finding this new position?
During the DeFi Talents program earlier this year, I decided to apply for a workshop exclusively organized for DeFi Talents on “CeFi vs. DeFi” with Bankhaus Scheich. I was lucky enough to be selected for the workshop so after a great session on where the experts see DeFi and CeFi in the future, I met and connected with Nils von Schoenaich-Carolath, CRO from Tradias by Bankhaus Scheich. He asked me if I was interested in joining the compliance department to build Tradias’ compliance and build a regulatory affairs unit - something I am really passionate about. Especially the fact that I was given the opportunity to build something from scratch - my “corporate baby” for the next few years so to say, now that my real babies are growing up and are already in school.
Speaking of growing up, which advice would you give your younger self looking back at everything you have achieved?
Trust your gut feeling! I used to doubt in a lot of cases, putting a lot of weight and importance into what other people thought or said. I believe I would be much further along today if I had not hesitated, but had trusted my inner gut feeling. Women in particular tend to wonder how much they know. “Are we knowledgeable, professional enough?”, “Enough for a particular position?” It's absolutely okay to make mistakes over time, you can always correct them, but if you don't take the chance, you won't progress in your career and in your life in general.
Thank you, Maha, for taking the time to speak to me today!
Thanks for having me.
(c/o Frankfurt School Blockchain Center)
60322 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
About Web3 Talents
At Web3 Talents we believe that education is the pathway to a successful career. Therefore, we have designed four free 18-week mentorship programs specializing in various Web3 topics. With DLT Talents, DeFi Talents, NFT Talents and Bitcoin Talents we aim to educate a cohort of Talents in the respective topic and help them kick-start their career to become entrepreneurs, technologists, founders, regulators and investors in the respective Web3 industries.
Our track record so far speaks for itself: By now, more than 5000 people have applied for our Talents programs; of these, we have mentored more than 1000 from 2020 to 2022. Following the completion of our program, many of our Talents have successfully entered Web3 industries and founded businesses of their own.
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