Could you tell us how ADS has developed since it was founded?
We built our company from scratch, and we grew parallel to Abu Dhabi. 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. The political stability, infrastructure, financial credibility, and informed laws and regulations allow a company like ADS to thrive. 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 fully fledged financial services institution, but we have always been selective about who we work with. It is not about how many people we work with; it is about who we work with and how we can deliver to them.
You now offer a wide range of financial services. What was your growth and diversification strategy away from forex brokerage?
The backbone of ADS Securities is our trading ability; 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 very good year for us. We survived a strong move on the Swiss National Bank (SNB), we quadrupled our client base to reach the tens of thousands, starting from zero clients, all organically grown; 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 very 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 organic growth due to the effort and finances you've 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 that is creating fantastic reviews—so yes, 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, now we are on the selling 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 for them. 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 it 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 where we saw currency wars, central banks still in the middle of their QE, not to mention all the political turmoil that's been going on, and is still going on.
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. The Etihad management has acted quickly and wisely to raise additional funds so that they can invest money in areas that will make more and more sense in the coming years. It has a long-term strategy, and it 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.
How will that Etihad project affect other future projects with state-owned companies and other large internationals?
That project definitely tells people we are in the market. We have been slowly building contacts and an understanding of our approach, and a deal like this means that we now have clients coming to knock at our door. We also understand the needs and priorities of the country. Clients want to talk to us because we are a local institution with the knowledge insight and intuition they need. They know they can save money by working with us rather than investing in terms of economists and financial advisers to study and try to understand what we deal with on a daily basis. We have 39 different nationalities represented on our staff, which shows the international extent and connectivity of our operation.
What are your expectations and objectives for 2016?
Every year is a consolidation of the previous years. For 2016 we have put in place a strategy that is built on the knowledge of what clients need from us and how the markets have reacted, but is designed to anticipate the opportunities and challenges ahead of us. In financial services we are surrounded by risk, but still need to provide the best returns. To do this we focus on understanding and managing risk to maximize profits. The start of 2016 will be challenging but we will be looking for the markets to post better and better results leading to a very positive year end, which continues into 2017.