NASER AL NABULSI

Dubai 2020 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

Aiming to be considered the investment institution of choice in the MENA region, Al Mal Capital has rapidly become one of the leading financial institutions in the UAE.

Naser Al Nabulsi
BIOGRAPHY

After graduating from Bowling Green State University, Ohio, Naser Al Nabulsi launched his career at Merrill Lynch. At the age of 27, he was the youngest vice president globally within Merrill Lynch. He then went on to be ranked the top performer in private banking within MENA, Asia, and Europe, and a top-three performer globally. Other achievements during his 11 years with Merrill Lynch was the Banker of the Year award in 1998 and 1999. In 2000, Al Nabulsi was handpicked by the Private Office of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to build up the investment and asset management arm of the office. Al Nabulsi served as senior investment officer for the executive office and as head of private equity and asset management for the group. He was given the mandate to launch DIFC as its first CEO. He subsequently used his experience and knowledge to found and develop Al Mal Capital, a leading Middle East financial institution.

How do you assess Expo 2020's impact on the economy and the financial sector?
The main sectors benefiting from the expo will be tourism (including hotels) and retail. Telecoms could get a short-term boost as well. Real estate companies will not benefit directly but will get a chance to promote their assets to a larger and new audience. The immediate benefits for the financial sector are limited. Over time, as concepts and ideas get commercialized, banks will be able to capitalize on intermediation both in lending activity and merchant banking activities through the generation of fee income. Dubai aspires to be a financial hub between Singapore and London. From this perspective, Expo 2020 should have a role to play as it is a unique opportunity to showcase Dubai to the rest of the world.

As the one to establish DIFC and position Dubai's rise to where it is today, how will Dubai reach its always increasing ambitions and pioneer the future of financial hubs?
In 2019, Dubai rose up the ranks of the Global Financial Centres Index (GFCI) to eighth position, representing its highest-ever ranking. The city is the only financial center within Middle East Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region to appear within the top 10 rankings. With more than 24,000 professionals working across over 2,200 active registered companies, DIFC comprises the largest and most diverse pool of industry talent in the region. DIFC's wealth and asset management market, which was reported to be USD424 billion in 2018, is equivalent to approximately 30% of the GCC's combined GDP. Dubai has consistently risen within the rankings since the index was launched 12 years ago. The city's steady ascent has been driven by DIFC's remarkable success in building an ecosystem that fosters financial industry growth. DIFC key to success has been the continuous pursuit of excellence and a focus on innovation.

How does Al Mal Capital seek to position itself as these new opportunities begin to take shape and the UAE looks to rebound?
Al Mal is one of the leading financial institutions in the UAE and is uniquely positioned to benefit from Dubai's expansion as a financial center. The breadth of our platform, our ESCA license, and the backing of a strong shareholder (Dubai Investments) enable us to attract the best talents and to structure world-class financial products and solutions. Our platform is scalable, which means we can not only act as a hub for local and international product management but also as a local distributor of international third-party products. When it comes to UAE assets, Al Mal is well positioned across the value chain. For instance, Al Mal UAE equity fund has the best and longest track record on the UAE equity market with an 80% outperformance since its inception. We have always been at the forefront of real estate and private equity investments and continue to invest in local assets mainly thanks to the support of Dubai Investments. Local and regional capital markets activity will soon recover, triggering renewed appetite for IPOs and new issues. We aim to play a major role thanks to our corporate advisory capabilities.

2020 marks 15 years for Al Mal Capital. What are your strategic priorities and vision as we look to the coming decade?
From day one, Al Mal Capital's vision has been to be considered as the investment institution of choice in the MENA region. We are among the few local institutions that have survived over the last 15 years. Still, we are only at the start of our story. There are tremendous opportunities ahead of us, and we are uniquely positioned to seize them. Our first strategic priority is to serve our clients in the best way. The whole firm needs to work hard and efficiently to deliver high-performing, differentiated, and compliant solutions with impeccable client servicing. We stick to our core offering which include direct investments, corporate advisory, asset management, and capital markets.