ONE STEP AHEAD

Abu Dhabi 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Philippe Ghanem, Vice Chairman & CEO of ADS Securities, on confirming Abu Dhabi's place in the global financial sun, the importance of smart and predictable regulation, and having had the foresight to diversify before the oil crash.

Philippe Ghanem
BIOGRAPHY
Philippe Ghanem is Vice Chairman & CEO of ADS Securities, an Abu Dhabi-based and owned international financial services company dedicated to providing the highest quality investment opportunities for institutional, private, and retail clients. 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 from the International University of Geneva.

What is your vision for the development of the sector?

2016 produced a year of unexpected political and economic shocks, which for many countries, has led to uncertainty and worry. However, the strong leadership and ambition the President, HH Sheikh Khalifah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and the Crown Prince, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, means Abu Dhabi is well placed to benefit from all these shocks. The diversification of the economy through the creation of a well-capitalized, credible world-class financial sector has provided a vehicle for success and growth. ADS Securities is grateful for the opportunity this has provided us, but the best is yet to come. The global financial services industry has evolved significantly since ADS Securities launched in 2010; technology, regulation, and capitalization continue to shape the market in the near and medium term. But, last year the sterling flash crash also demonstrated the risks that technology, in inexperienced hands, can play in our industry.

The downswing in oil prices prompted financial services to increase their market share. How has this effect worked in favor of financial companies such as ADS Securities?

The visionary leadership of Abu Dhabi and the UAE prepared the country for the downturn in the oil price. Long before the drop occurred, they foresaw the need for economic diversification to guarantee the country's long-term interests. Thus, before the downturn, thriving financial service and real estate sectors had already been established. The importance of this is also linked to the changes in the relative strength of the major currencies.

Economic diversification has pushed an increasing number of companies to look for financial assistance. How has this positioned ADS as the partner of choice for financial services?

ADS is one of the largest brokerage companies in the world, and the consolidation of the UAE as a global financial hub has worked to our benefit. We have the largest capitalization among brokerage companies globally with USD585 million. This has allowed us to invest in people, technology, and the products we provide to our clients. ADS has been able to cultivate a sense of confidence among our clients; they know their money is safe, their trades will be executed, and they are backed by advanced technology and state-of-the-art financial regulation.

What are the main services you offer from London?

London represents nearly 60% of the foreign exchange market, so as the Middle East's largest foreign exchange brokerage, it was essential that we have an operation there. The commercial and business benefits have already validated this decision. In London, our operation is focused on serving our retail and institutional brokerage businesses, as well as the broader UK and European markets. Despite Brexit, London's status as a financial hub will remain untouched.

What do you envision for the near future of the financial sector in Abu Dhabi, and where will ADS fit into that future?

Looking forward, ADS will continue to focus on our four core business lines—online and offline brokerage, capital debt markets, investment banking, and asset & wealth management. ADS' ability to leverage our strong relationships, deep capitalization, and global influence to reach out to bankers, brokers, and LPs to ensure our clients benefit from the deepest liquidity, fastest execution times, and most competitive spreads truly sets us apart. The UAE has the connectivity, resources, infrastructure, time zone, and regulatory environment to provide any financial services professional with whatever they need. Both Vision 2021 and Vision 2030 form a solid financial package in the long run that will establish Abu Dhabi as one of the strongest financial services markets on the planet.