Fathi Ben Grira on Middle East investments | Almena Financial Brokers
Fathi Ben Grira, CEO of Almena Financial Brokers, on investing in the Middle East and North Africa region
The Middle East and North Africa is a region of huge growth right now, with booming businesses and massive state investment. Almena Financial Brokers is an investment bank specialising in the Almena region, and its CEO Fathi Ben Grira discusses the opportunities in the area, how Almena Financial Brokers became the leader in stockbrokerage in the UAE, and the bullish outlook for the UAE market.
World Finance: Almena Financial Brokers is based in the UAE so why is this a strategically important location?
Fathi Ben Grira: As you just said, we cover the whole Middle East and North Africa region, that’s why our company is called Almena Financial Brokers. MENA standing for Middle East and North Africa. Some of our competitors chose to cover the region through Qatar, Bahrain or Egypt. These are great places to run the business, but we believe that the UAE gives us a really competitive edge compared to the other countries. First, political stability. In the region you can’t ignore the importance of this factor. Second, economical growth. With a huge wealth of the emirate of Abu Dhabi and so that strong dynamic of the economy in Dubai, that’s really the right place to be. Third, geographical position. We are at the crossroads of some of the fastest growing economies in the world and at the centre of the oil and gas reach GCC and also when I find myself at the Dubai airport, I really have the feeling to get the centre of the world, or at least the centre of the new world.
World Finance: Now you’re stock brokerage division has been enjoying remarkable results, tell us why you are a leader in this field in the UAE.
Fathi Ben Grira: In UAE, you have fifty stock brokerage forms operating on the Dubai financial market and the Abu Dhabi security exchange. So roughly you should take fifty companies each of them should have their own two percent market shares. We are far above those figures since we reached fifteen percent market share on the Dubai financial market, and eleven percent market share on the Abu Dhabi securities exchange in terms of trading value. So this brings us to the first place in terms of trading value, but also in terms of size of clients portfolio where we crossed one billion dollars. All that has been achieved thanks to the dedication of our team. We have the largest sales team in the country led by our managing director of brokerage, Mr. Nabil Al Rantisi who did an amazing job during, since he joined our company. But also thanks to the back of his finance department and IT department, strong sales force, state of the art risk management, and proper execution, that’s how we run the business and that’s why we are the number one in UAE.
World Finance: You also have other business lines including investment banking. Tell us about your focus for the next few years?
Fathi Ben Grira: The first thing we will focus on our brokerage activity to offer more products to our clients such as Forex commodities, international trading, we will cover all the markets of the Almena region to offer one single entry point on all those products. The second thing we will strengthen our practice in asset management in our case I should speak more about wealth management since our clients are mostly high net worth individuals based in the GCC. Third, investment banking, traditionally many mandates, but we will also have a strong focus on IPOs as we see a huge trend for the coming years in the UAE, especially for family owned business. And we know from the discussions we have with the market authorities with the regulators that soon they will issue a new set of regulations easing the listing rules for those family owned businesses. Finally our financial research, we focus on two page document with a lot of data, with a lot of financial ratios, and since now we cover one hundred percent of the listed companies on the Almena region, I guess our clients are happy with it.
World Finance: Several international investment banks are also based in the UAE and specifically Dubai, so how do you complete with the established names?
Fathi Ben Grira: You are right, most of them are based in the offshore zone of the Dubai international financial centre, so which means that from a legal point of view they have the statues of foreign companies. They are not an on shore company. We are an on shore company, we are one hundred percent Emirate, regulated by the local authorities so for me it’s a substantial difference, but let’s get things clear we are not here to compete against Morgan Stanley, Bank of America or HSBC, we operate on different fields, most of the time we try to cooperate with these international financial institutions each time they need a local partner to operate on shore.
World Finance: Finally, what is your outlook for the UAE economy and your role within it?
Fathi Ben Grira: I’m extremely bullish on the UAE economy. The country is doing great under the guidance of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan who launched the vision 2030 for Abu Dhabi. The emirate of Abu Dhabi engaged huge government spendings in terms of investment infrastructures in order to totally transform the economy of the Emirate. On the Dubai side, Dubai, the city is a beacon for the whole Middle Eastern North Africa region but we know that when you leave the ambition of his highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is not limited to the region. With the bid of Dubai to be the city hosting the expo 2020, his ambition is really to bring the city and the whole country, to the forefront of the international scene. And at Almena Financial Brokers we are proud to be an official bid supporter for Dubai 2020. Our job is to support the vision of the leaders of the country and to make it really international financial platform, is to provide the best service we can to these institutions for their execution needs and also to promote each time we can, the country as a major financial centre.