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UAE Executives: Century Financial: At the forefront of change

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As chairman of a leading financial institution, how would you define excellence in your chosen business area?

At Century, excellence is a way of life. The same is reflected in everything we do, with the focus on promoting exemplary employee and customer experiences, supported by our continuous education and training and supplemented by the latest technologies.

Our employees are at the center of everything we do. They motivate each other to do their best and by providing a great place to work for everyone, regardless of their role in our company, we strive for excellence in everything we do.

It is critical to our success that our customers come first in everything we do, and we are constantly developing and improving our customer experience practices that encompass all touchpoints throughout our customers’ journey. This customer focus helps generate new business and retain existing customers, which gives the company long-term value. At Century, our pursuit of excellence ensures we stay at the forefront of our industry by constantly innovating and providing our customers with the best trading experience possible.

Can you tell us a little bit about the brand history of Century Financial and what made you decide to join the company?

Century Financial was founded in 1989 and has been present at all stages of the UAE’s economic growth. The company’s history and origins date back to before Dubai Financial Markets and Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange were founded and converted into a public institution in 2000. With nearly three decades of experience in global financial markets, the company is the leading, oldest and recognized investment solution provider in the United Arab Emirates, serving both local and overseas populations.

When it comes to my personal history at Century, I think that if you have a knack for numbers, you can’t think of any other exciting and rewarding career than finance and investing. It’s the same love of numbers that made me work at Century Financial. In addition, I have always been fascinated by the fast-moving world of global financial markets. I’ve always believed that anything Wall Street related can lead to a thriving career option.

How have you steered Century Financial in a new direction for growth since assuming the post of CEO of the company?

My vision for Century has always been to build a world-class organization that is a gathering of customer-centric, super-innovative, technology-driven companies in the financial and investment sectors that will enable us to remain the undisputed leader in our industry.

With our newly established Century Private Wealth and Century Bank Brokers business units, we are still on a growth path. Century Private Wealth is a bespoke wealth and asset management company operating under the DFSA regulated Category 3C license and focused on two main business activities: wealth management and wealth management.

At Century Bank Brokers, our core team of banking veterans provides a curated portfolio of personal and commercial banking solutions through partnerships with banks, non-bank financial firms and other financial institutions.

As part of our further expansion and growth, we are sounding out potential opportunities and meticulously examining new business areas and synergies with our existing business. I believe that our new areas of expansion would not only provide the company with an additional source of income, but would also complement the existing business.

Businesses such as real estate crowdfunding, attractive Sharia-based financial products, entry into cryptocurrencies or a niche asset class would also be of interest to us in the near future.

Another growth area is Century Financials’ Innovation Lab, which will provide and implement end-to-end investment solutions for customers while enhancing the overall customer experience through the use of AI / machine learning and other technological tools.

What does effective team management mean in emergency situations like the pandemic?

It is well known that the pandemic had a significant impact on the way businesses normally operated, and executives needed to quickly find ways to get the decision across to teams. I firmly believe that networking within the groups through a new and more effective communication channel is essential in order to deliver flawless results within a given timeframe.

Due to the hybrid working environment, team spirit is essential for quick problem solving and execution in this VUCA situation (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous). I firmly believe in leading with compassion, especially in these troubled times; and work out a solution that is all geared towards maintaining productivity and efficiency, prioritizing actions while taking into account the needs of the team.

Effective team management is even more important in an emergency and should include maintaining business continuity, empowering proxies, and prioritizing their mental wellbeing alongside that of the team. I want to emphasize that understanding the adaptability of the team and creating unique ways to overcome adversity are critical to effectively dealing with circumstances.

How important is a manager’s ability to take risks and how critical is it to admit when a wrong decision has been made that harms the interests of the company and its employees?

Seizing opportunities and exploring new possibilities are some of the ways to experience progress in my opinion. Today’s leaders should be agile in quickly realigning strategies as they explore new avenues and then building and embracing more collaboration and trust within the organization to increase the likelihood of better results.

There is always the possibility that despite careful formulation, business decisions are wrong; and I firmly believe that the leader should stand up and own it when it goes wrong. This is of the utmost importance in order to maintain the credibility of the manager and to give the respective decision a clear face, which further increases the trust factor in the team. Easier said than done, but it opens up the scope for repairs and ultimately restores the team’s confidence in their leaders.

I can recall a great example of Ratan Tata taking responsibility for the rollout decision of the Tata Nano project, despite the car’s poor commercial performance at the time.

Tata has learned from the experience, realigned its business model and finally gained a foothold in the Indian automotive industry with several commercially successful car models.

How would you best guide aspiring entrepreneurs who want to enter the financial world here in the United Arab Emirates?

The UAE has become an incubator for some of the best financial startups in the region, and the impact is unstoppable as new startups surge in the air. My advice to the budding entrepreneur would be pretty eloquent and would be based on the 3S principle – sustainability, scalability and simplicity.

The financial ecosystem, particularly the capital markets in the UAE, requires a holistic 360-degree lens to correlate the various international financial indicators; and the aspiring entrepreneur must be eager to methodically work towards the long-term goals in order to make it a trustworthy and growing business model in the eyes of his stakeholders, that is his customers, investors and his team. If this philosophy is believed and followed, then there are excellent opportunities to make a name for yourself.

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