QUALITY SERVICE

Oman 2018 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Aftab Patel, CEO of Al Omaniya Financial Services, on remaining flexible in light of the economy and customers' needs, building a solid equity base for the company, and its focus on sustainability.

Aftab Patel
BIOGRAPHY
Aftab Patel is a commerce graduate and a Chartered Accountant. He started his career with A. F. Ferguson & Co in Mumbai and then moved to Associated Cement Company. He moved to Muscat in 1984 and was with Omar Zawawi Establishment L.L.C (OMZEST). In 1990 he was appointed Profit Centre Head for Bank Muscat. He is the founding member, promoter, and CEO of Al Omaniya Financial Services SAOG, which he helped to found along with a group of investment bankers and pension funds.

What steps have you taken in the past 20 years to become a leading leasing and lending company in Oman?

Al Omaniya Financial Services was formed with a mission to be the best financial services provider in the country through ethics today and tomorrow. The purpose of our business is to create superior value for all our stakeholders, be they our customers, investors, or employees. The company started its business in retail auto financing, and our main objective is to provide a premium service at an affordable price to local citizens as well as foreigners and help them to get affordable transportation means. All our products are structured with a customer-centric philosophy, and we constantly evolve and adapt our strategies, products, and servicing methodologies to suit customers' needs and goals. In the last 20 years we have played a significant role in positively impacting many lives in the country. We remain flexible and adapt and plan out strategies in new directions to balance between growth and profitability.

Your company has been consecutively paying higher dividends of 25%. Could you explain how this impacts the company?

Our careful business strategies enabled us to redefine our market positions constantly and enhance and penetrate existing and new market areas. We continuously innovate and introduce new product lines in the corporate market from asset loans to working capital facilities, bill discounting to project loans. Our latest advent into loan syndication with banks, in combination with our strong foothold in retail auto loans and consumer loans, has allowed us to consistently earn more revenue. Our constant efforts at excellent treasury management with a clever mix of borrowing instruments with both local and offshore banking channels have allowed us to price our products competitively, which also allowed us to have excellent net profits and reward our stakeholders consecutively. As we continue to build revenues, we have not lost sight of building a solid equity base for the company, which is reflected in the high net worth and high book value for the company.

How have market challenges affected the evolution of services being demanded?

Having understood the market dynamics well in advance we have taken proactive measures to streamline our business model and are currently focusing on consolidation, maintaining the quality of the book and making sure we are adequately capitalized. For the last two years we are perhaps the only non-banking financial institution to maintain a large amount of liquid assets; in 2016 Al Omaniya had over USD86 million in cash in the form of bank deposits. This has given us a solid footing in the financial sector and has given a lot of confidence to our lenders about our financial standing. We have also identified areas where there will be growth and less stress and increased our focus on those segments such as hospitality, tourism, retail, healthcare, and education, which will continue to flourish in Oman. Areas that have unfortunately taken a backseat for the time being including infrastructure-related projects and construction are where we are reducing our concentration. We are currently in the process of restructuring our portfolio to meet these new demands.

What are Al Omaniya's main goals for 2018?

We have identified sustainability as the key management objective. Currently our focus is not on profitability, volume, or size; rather, our main focus is on maintaining our quality of the book and making sure that we continue to render our customer services effectively. We intend to maintain our current strength, competitiveness, and quality. At the same time we want to continue our businesses in niche areas by innovative product structuring and better packaging to suit the needs of the hour and manage the resources judiciously to ensure sustainable earnings and profitability. If Al Omaniya remains strong and flexible when the economy begins to improve then it will bounce back easily to reap the benefits.