Sameer Al Ansari is one of few people to have seen the rise, fall and rebirth of Dubai from an insider’s perspective. In an exclusive interview, the former head of Dubai International Capital describes how the crash happened and whether anything has really changed as a result
The psychology behind business is something about which Sameer Al Ansari seems to give plenty of thought. As we sit in a plush boardroom in Dubai International Financial Centre — the emirate’s economic nucleus — issues such as human nature, motivation and a real concern as to whether those currently at the helm in Dubai have really learnt any lessons from the global recession of 2009 are subjects he has clearly considered for some time.
“Human nature impacts everything. When things begin to pick up, general optimism and positive energy, all these things begin to feed on themselves,” he says, before counterbalancing it with a cautious footnote to bring proceedings back down to earth.
“People have short memories. Several things have changed... [But in] human nature deep, deep down, we are all greedy, so if they get the chance to do it, they’ll do it again. In five years’ time, ten years’ time, 20 years’ time? I don’t know. It will happen again.”
Of course, if anyone is in a position to know whether things have changed in Dubai it is Al Ansari. Few people have been privileged enough to be in the central core when the global recession engulfed the Dubai real estate market in 2008 and when it faced the headline-grabbing Dubai World debt crisis in 2009.
Born in Kuwait but holding UAE nationality, he started out as a senior manager with Ernst & Young from 1987 to 1992, but his career progression quickly brought him deep into the inner circle of Dubai’s business community.
He served as group chief financial officer for the Executive Office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and was the founding chairman and CEO of Dubai International Capital, a subsidiary of Dubai Holding and widely considered to be the sovereign wealth fund of Dubai, with assets under management of around $13bn.
Add those positions to the fact he was also chief executive of Shuaa Capital, one of the Gulf’s top listed financial services institutions, for two years and chief financial officer at Dubai Aluminium Company (Dubal), where for eight years he played a significant role in the successful turnaround of the company, and you get a sense of the responsibility that has been regularly placed on Al Ansari’s shoulders by Dubai’s most powerful leaders and the insights he has gained over the years.
Article continued on next page...