FLYING HIGH

Abu Dhabi 2016 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Philippe Ghanem, Vice-Chairman & CEO of ADS Securities, on the company's growth, increasing its product offerings, and assisting Etihad to launch its bond.

Philippe Ghanem
BIOGRAPHY
Philippe Ghanem is CEO and Vice-Chairman of ADS Securities, an Abu Dhabi-based financial services company conceived to offer world-class global trading and investment solutions from the Middle East. Ghanem was instrumental in setting up ADS Securities, drawing on his experience in both establishing and running entrepreneurial financial businesses. Ghanem is also Deputy CEO and Vice-Chairman of ADS Securities’ parent company, ADS Holding, and Chairman of ADS Securities London Limited. Prior to joining ADS Securities, he successfully created and launched a number of online forex trading firms. Ghanem holds a bachelor of business administration degree from the International University of Geneva.

How has ADS developed since it was established?

We built our company from scratch and grew it in parallel to Abu Dhabi's growth. In fact, Abu Dhabi was one of the reasons for our growth, enabling us to build a financial institution upon the solid foundations that Abu Dhabi provides. Abu Dhabi has created a fertile environment from which ADS Securities was able to develop one of the world's largest independent brokerages and then expand our services into capital markets, wealth management, asset management, and investment banking. In a short time we have created a fully fledged financial services institution though we remain selective about who we work with. It is not about how many people we work with; it is about who we work with and what we can deliver to them.

What was your growth and diversification strategy away from forex brokerage?

The backbone of ADS Securities is our trading ability and our knowledge of the business flows across markets. We had always planned to build the brokerage side of our work, which gives us the insight and feel for trading. This has flourished both internationally and locally. Last year was a good year for us. We survived a strong move on the Swiss National Bank (SNB); we quadrupled our client base, all organically grown, to reach tens of thousands starting from zero. We opened up in Asia working with many sophisticated and professional clients, and we have increased our product offerings. As we developed this area of work, we were also putting together the right people and products to provide a range of high-quality financial services products. Our growth is linked to Abu Dhabi's growth and we are integrated fully into the country's potential and prospects. As the number of major international firms, banks, and people coming to Abu Dhabi increases, so does our business.

To what extent is your growth due to the effort and finances you have put into your own technology?

In 2014 we launched the first multi-asset trading platform designed and built in this region. This now trades billions of dollars daily. In 2015 we launched a mobile trading app and it is generating fantastic reviews, so technology will always be a driver for growth. But as an institution ADS is not just about making money. It is about achieving something that was never possible before. Abu Dhabi was always focused on the buying side, and now we are focused on the selling aspect of business. People used to come and land in Abu Dhabi with a briefcase and take money away. However, now people come here to give us money for us to manage. To make this work you have to have people with a high level of motivation. The brand of the country is high, and the Abu Dhabi name is strong and is a proven financial platform. Hence, the overall organic growth comes from technology, the people, and the regulations. Keep in mind that we rose and succeeded during a period of economic crisis when you saw currency wars and central banks all still in the middle of their quantitative easing, not to mention all the political turmoil that has been taking place and is still ongoing.

Can you describe the success of the $700 million debut bond for Etihad Airways?

Etihad has a very successful business model, but the airline business is a tough environment. Etihad acted quickly and wisely to raise additional funds so that it can invest money in areas that will make more and more sense in the coming years. It has a long-term strategy, and acted decisively and aggressively to set it in motion. The success of the bond in raising the money validates the Etihad strategy and approach. It was a clever move. We should also consider that the bond was raised in under 10 hours, and was extended to raise an additional $200 million, taking the full amount to $700 million.