A veteran in financial services, the group chief distribution and development officer at Equitativa Group, Racha Alkhawaja oversees the largest Sharia compliant REIT in the world
What’s the story behind your business?
The Reit business is relatively new in the region. Equitativa was set up by Sylvain Vieujot who started the first Reit in France. We bring a new asset class into the region. It is a complex one and we are positioned as a leader in our sector as we manage the largest Sharia compliant REIT in the world, Emirates REIT. Currently, we are expanding into emerging markets and building REITs in areas including the One Belt One Road area in China.
If all goes well, where do you see it going in the next five years?
We aim to be the first mover and market leader in emerging markets including Asia and Africa. In a decade, we hope to see the REITs we are building to be of attractive size for our investor base and to see REITs as a liquid product in most investment portfolios.
What’s the single biggest challenge facing your industry today?
Firstly, investor knowledge and education about this complex asset class. Identifying assets suitable for REITs is another challenge, but we have an able acquisition team.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organisation?
It is embedded in our culture that by being part of the organisation you are expected and respected for all the new ideas that get put on the table.
What are three characteristics that you believe every leader should possess?
Passion, integrity, humility
Has social networking impacted your organisation?
Very much so. Social media has helped get our message across about REITs and increased the profile of the firm and our vision. In turn this has attracted new business to us.
What do you enjoy the most about working at your company?
The entrepreneurial aspect of Equitativa makes you want to achieve more every day and having a superb team to do this with makes it an enjoyable place to work.
Can you name a person who has had an impact on you as a leader?
A few! I cannot put enough weight on mentoring. It has got me to where I am today. I always surround myself with more able leaders.
When faced with two qualified candidates, how do you choose who to hire?
Fitting the culture of the company is the differentiating factor.
What advice would you give to someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Don’t have any expectations. Work hard and listen to your peers. Adapt and listen. Learn every day and communicate to your team daily about success and failure equally.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I can live happily with very little as much as I can happily live with excess! I am not attached to physical possessions.
What’s one productivity tip you wish everyone else knew?
If you only work hard on the days you feel good you never produce enough to move forward.
What is your most prized possession?
What money can’t buy: my daughters
Quote to live your life by?
Accept failure with a smile as much as you accept success, they both push you to the next stage.
Finish this sentence “the world would be a better place if only…”
I could have my father back.