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Mon 1 Oct 2007 04:00 AM

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Global ambitions

CEO Rashad Janahi on Abu Dhabi Investment House's strategy to become a force on the world stage.

Abu Dhabi Investment House (ADIH) has been a part of the Gulf financial scene for only two years but has already started making big waves in the region. Founded in 2005, the group's net profits had increased 375% by the following year and a new office has already been opened in the heart of Europe.

"The idea was to start an investment banking boutique," explains Rashad Janahi, ADIH's ebullient CEO. "The way we went about it was that we thought, ‘Abu Dhabi is one of the strongest markets in the region and there is still a lot of potential.' As a result, a research study was conducted to assess the market and opportunities and found our niche."

With fifteen years experience in banking in the region, first with Al Baraka Islamic Bank and subsequently with HSBC UAE's Private Banking section, Janahi is adept at finding alternate, untapped investment opportunities for the group: "When we launched it was peak time for listed stocks in the GCC, where most people were investing. Since we target high net worth individuals and organisations, we came up with products such as the ‘Al Arabi Private Equity Fund', which allowed us a good range of diversification, and that's where our success journey began."

ADIH's real estate and investment portfolio now includes developments throughout the GCC; from Qatar's US$3bn Entertainment City or a US$100m stake in the Sunset Hills in Bahrain to Beirut Gate and Saudi funds. The Lagoon, which Janahi proudly describes as one of their ‘flagship projects', was 60% contracted within four weeks of its launch. The expansion continues, with slightly over US$217m raised to leverage US$845m to develop the Gulf German Residences. This year also saw the opening of offices in Bahrain and Geneva to facilitate the pursuit of global opportunities.

"We started in Abu Dhabi, where we had a lot of success in terms of product and investors. Based on that, our next step was to open an office in Bahrain - which, as you know is one of the region's most important financial centres," Janahi explains. "Once the Bahrain office was established, Geneva became attractive - given its reputation in private banking, as well as, its strategic geographic location within Europe. However, ADIH Geneva will offer services in asset management, family office services, portfolio consolidation / cost and return control, as well as, advisory services for real estate and legal transactions.

Our global expansion is not restricted to Europe, as we have existing investments in Asia - which is a very attractive market and could possibly see more ADIH activity, as is America as a highly potential market.

As quickly as events are unfolding Janahi wants to ensure that the group guards against unnecessary overexposure: "Whenever we are expanding, we are cautious in the way it's done. Conducting due diligence and evaluation, as well as seeking international consultancies when required all are musts before we take a step or make a move.
"The sky is the limit," Janahi continues. "We are ambitious. Our thinking is aimed to go as far as ten years down the line ,- to be able to absorb all the projects and activities we would like to establish and achieve.!"

Janahi also remains unfazed by the current crises threatening to engulf the global financial markets. "It's a cycle. Now may not be a good time for some banks in the EU or the US, but our business model is different," he explains. "Yes, sometimes there are force majeure that cannot be controlled.

However, we are protective over our investors' investments and try to minimize risk by carefully selecting appropriate products suitable to our investors and their needs. Although we offer packages to conservative investors, some investors do seek the higher returns which we satisfy, making sure risks are understood.."

As well as ADIH's financial expansion, Janahi wants the brand name to be synonymous with its work in and for the community. Many of the company's sponsorship events are chosen on the basis of good corporate social responsibility: "At ADIH, we take CSR very seriously - especially if the project helps improve the quality of life, provide the community with beneficial outcomes - culturally as well as socially. Education and Sports are also two sectors that we participated in during the last 2 years in both Abu Dhabi and Bahrain."

Janahi is adamant that he can pinpoint the main driving force behind the company's success: "We are a big believer that our strength is the ADIH team, which is the most important element within the company."

As well as hiring his management from some of the biggest international firms, the CEO oversees a continuous series of initiatives to further team members' development. He is rightly proud that, so far, 20 of ADIH's Investment Placement executives have passed the Series-7 course (a compulsory qualification for all brokers and dealers in Bahrain, based on the Series-7 certification of the US Securities and Exchange Commission), something that he tells me other companies have, but none in as high a number. In addition, the company holds educational seminars and courses to further workplace development. Training courses for senior team members are also run. As Janahi sees it, it is a highly worthwhile investment: "It is the team that continuously build us excellent results and our belief in them is 100%. We are determined to keep on providing them with the appropriate training and development as it has high returns to the team member on both personal and professional levels."

What some might see as the glut of investment houses and banks in the region, Janahi turns into a positive, preferring rather to see it as healthy competition. "At the end of the day partners and alliances are always sought," he says, "and we consider ourselves partnered with the best in the region." It is also something of a family affair: "Most of my brothers are in the financial sector. I look at my brother, Esam Janahi, Chairman of Gulf Finance House, one of the most successful people I know."

It is a success that Janahi plans on emulating. "I aim for our investors, and ADIH team to refer to ADIH as a success story." If the economic growth continues at the same pace, it should not be long before the story spreads evenfurther afield.

Name:Rashad Janahi;

Title:CEO Abu Dhabi Investment House;

Length of time in position:2 years;

Previous role:HSBC UAE Private Banking;

Core values:“Hard work , honesty and transparency are essential factors in building trust between people – in life and business;

Best piece of advice:Be patient, always.

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