May. 5, 2020


Fouad Al Jamal

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Fouad Al Jamal

President & CEO, Trust Construction

BIO

Fouad Al Jamal is the President & CEO of Trust Construction. He is a member of the American Society Of Civil Engineers, the Jordanian society of engineers, and the higher technical consultative committee. Al Jamal is also chairman of Regional Sub Technical Committee-Abu Dhabi. He has a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Ain Shams University and a PhD in construction management.


Can you tell us more about Trust Construction and how it started in Abu Dhabi?
Trust Construction Establishment was established in 1985. It is an ISO 9001:2015, ISO 14001:2015, and ISO 45001:2018 certified company. We do design, engineering, procurement, construction, and installation and commissioning of civil works, as well as mechanical, electrical, and plumbing projects. Trust Construction is now classified in Abu Dhabi as a Category 1 company. We have done a great deal of work in the UAE, mainly with governmental and semi-governmental agencies such as the Ministry of Defence, Tawazun Economic Council, and CICPA.

Have you had issues with on-time payments in recent years?
Abu Dhabi has introduced contractor classifications, and one of the main issues we focused on in the process was creating standardized levels against which to compare the capabilities of different contractors. Other Emirates have their own systems, though they all come down to classifying the companies based on size and capabilities so that clients can make a better choice. There are still numerous issues in the industry, particularly with respect to payment, but the majority of these cases happen in Dubai; how- ever, this is somewhat normal for a developing industry like ours. The issue becomes exacerbated when major real estate developers flood the market with new projects without considering the demand. This causes markets to operate sub-optimally. There should be a professional policy about awarding contracts so that contracts are not awarded to those who cannot execute them properly.

How does the company's business model help it survive the boom and bust cycles inherent to the industry?
The number-one priority is to stay liquid. We are one of the most liquid companies in the industry, and this is one of the reasons why our clients prefer to work with us. The liquidity translates into prompt payment, which everyone appreciates. Additionally, we are strict about quality, on-time delivery, and other factors, which does not make us the most popular at times with our sub-contractors. However, our sub-contractors like to be paid on time, and they are more than happy to live up to our high standards if prompt payment is what they get in return. Cost has to be seriously calculated, and assumptions should always be eschewed in favor of facts. There are many unexpected costs that arise during the course of project, and these must be accounted for in the beginning of the project. We normally calculate 2-3% as contingencies, and this gives us a margin of safety. There are a great many calculations that need to go into assessing the profitability of a project. When contractors bid our projects too low, then both parties end up losing. It is better to lose one job than every job. When companies put in too many tenders for too many jobs, disaster is often the result.

What are some important things to bear in mind when working for clients in the public sector?
Working with the public sector, especially defense, is demanding, and it is not for everyone. There are barriers to entry that some people cannot overcome. Additionally, companies have to comply with the timing and schedule of the government. This is a tough space to work in, though the best thing is that the money is guaranteed. The process can take some adjusting as well, though after a company has learned the rules and requirements, it can be a great space to operate in. From a financial point of view, we are the strongest company in the market, and that makes us extremely attractive to work with.

What is your outlook for the UAE construction sector?
There are positive signals in terms of the UAE's new residency rules. There are ambitious population goals in the UAE, and I applaud these efforts. We will see a great deal of immigration that will give stability to the system. I expect things to be great for both the industry and the country in general.

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