Business Leaders of the UAE: Century Financial: At the forefront of change

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As the Chairman of a leading financial institution, how would you define excellence in your chosen field of operations?

At Century, excellence is a way of life. And the same is reflected in everything we do, with a core focus of driving exemplary employee and customer experiences, supported by our continuous training and education, and augmented with cutting-edge technologies.

Our employees are at the heart of everything that we do. They motivate one another to be the best they can be, and by providing a great place to work for everyone, regardless of their function in our company, we aim for excellence in all we do.

Putting our clients first in everything we do is crucial to our success, and we are always evolving and improving our customer experience practices spanning all the touchpoints throughout our client’s journey. This focus on clients helps to attract new business and retain existing clients, providing long-term value to the company. At Century our pursuit of excellence ensures that we stay at the forefront of our industry by constantly innovating and providing our clients the best trading experience possible.

Please share a bit of brand history on Century Financial and what prompted you to join the firm?

Century Financial was founded in the year 1989 and has been present during all stages of the UAE’s economic growth. The history and origins of the firm trace back to the period even before Dubai Financial Markets and Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange was launched and made a public institution in the year 2000. With almost three decades of experience in global financial markets, the firm has remained the UAE’s oldest and recognised investment solutions provider, serving both local and expatriate populations.

With regard to my personal journey at Century, I feel, If you have a knack for numbers, you cannot possibly look at any other exciting and rewarding career than finance and investments. It’s the same love for numbers that drew me to join Century Financial. Furthermore, the fast-paced world of global financial markets has always intrigued me. I always believed that anything associated with Wall Street can make for a thriving career option.

How have you steered Century Financial in a new direction of growth since taking on the mantle of CEO of the organisation?

My vision for Century has always been to build a world-class organisation that is a congregation of customer-focused, super innovative, and technologically driven companies in the financial and investment sectors, allowing us to remain the undisputed leader in our industry.

We continue to be on a growth trajectory, with our newly formed businesses, Century Private Wealth and Century Bank Brokers. Century Private Wealth is a bespoke wealth and asset management company operating under the Category 3C License regulated by the DFSA, focusing on two primary business activities: asset management and wealth management.

At Century Bank Brokers, our core team comprising banking veterans offers a curated portfolio of retail and commercial banking solutions through partnerships with banks, non-banking finance companies, and other financial institutions.

As part of our further expansion and growth, we are exploring the potential opportunities and meticulously studying new business segments as well as synergies with our existing business. I believe that our new areas of expansion would not only provide an additional revenue stream to the company but also complement existing business.

Businesses such as real estate crowdfunding, attractive sharia-based financial product, venturing into cryptocurrencies, or a niche asset class would also be the area of interest for us in the near future.

Another growth area is Century Financials’ Innovation Lab that will provide and implement end-to-end investment solutions to clients while enhancing the overall customer experience via the use of AI/Machine learning and other technological tools.

What does effective team management entail in exigency situations such as the pandemic?

It is a well-known fact that the pandemic has had a significant impact on the way businesses were typically operated and the leaders had to quickly discover ways to percolate the decision to the teams. I strongly opine that networking within the groups through a new and more effective communication channel is essential to deliver impeccable results within stipulated time frames.

Because of the hybrid working environment, team cohesiveness is essential for quick issue solving and execution in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) situation. I am a big believer in leading with compassion, especially in these tough times; and carve out a solution, all converging towards the maintaining of productivity and efficacy, prioritising actions while taking the team’s needs into consideration.

Effective team management is even more vital in an exigency and should include maintaining business continuity, empowering alternates, and prioritising their mental well-being alongside that of the team. I’d want to highlight that understanding the team’s adaptive capacity and creating unique ways to overcome adversity is critical to effectively navigate the circumstances.

How important is a leader’s ability to take risks, and how critical is it to own up if a wrong decision were taken that hurts the interests of the firm and its staff?

Taking chances and exploring new opportunities, in my opinion, are some ways to experience progress. Today’s leaders should be agile in re-strategising quickly while exploring new avenues and then build and embrace more collaboration and trust within the organisation to increase the likelihood of better outcomes.

There is always a possibility of getting the business decision wrong, despite them being meticulously formulated; and I strongly opine that the leader should stand up and own it if it goes wrong. This is of paramount necessity for keeping the leader’s credibility intact and giving a distinct face behind that particular decision, which further increases the trust factor within the team. This is easier said than done, but it opens the scope for repair and eventually restores the team’s faith in its leaders.

I can recall a great example of Ratan Tata taking ownership of the Tata Nano project rollout decision, despite the car’s poor commercial performance back in the day.

Tata learned from the experience, re-strategised its business model and eventually made an impact in the Indian automotive industry with several commercially successful car models.

How would you best guide budding entrepreneurs hoping to make an entry into the world of finance here in the UAE?

The UAE has become an incubator for some of the region’s finest finance start-ups and the impact is undulating with new start-ups appearing with increasing regularity. My advice to the budding entrepreneur would be quite eloquent, and it would be based on the principle of 3S — sustainability, scalability and simplicity.

The financial ecosystem, particularly the capital markets in the UAE, demands a 360 degree holistic lens to correlate the various international financial indicators; and the aspiring entrepreneur must have the zeal to work methodically towards the long-term goals of making it a trustworthy and growing business model in the eyes of their stakeholders, i.e. their customers, investors, and team. If this philosophy is believed and pursued, then there are excellent opportunities to build a name for oneself here.

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