Fathi Ben Grira is the chief executive of Menacorp, an investment firm with offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with a core business in securities brokerage. Mr Ben Grira, 36, is a Tunisian born and raised in France, where he worked as a lawyer and then as an investment banker. He moved to Dubai in 2011 to take over the ailing stockbrokerage company Wafa Financial Services, which he rebranded as Menacorp. The company is now the largest brokerage firm in the UAE. Mr Ben Grira lives with his wife on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah.
I am not a morning person so I need an espresso to start my day. I immediately put Dubai Eye on the radio to hear the local news and then turn on Bloomberg and CNBC for the international news. When the weather allows it, I eat my breakfast outside with a newspaper to enjoy the views. I have oats and milk rather than a proper French breakfast – you need to have good bread for that and in France we have bakeries on every street corner, which is not the case here.
Most mornings, I drive myself to my office in Downtown. But about twice a week, my driver takes me straight to Abu Dhabi for a morning meeting at our Khalifa Street offices. Some days I go to Abu Dhabi and back as many as three times a day – it depends on my schedule. In the car, I have my laptop on my knees and I answer emails and phone calls. Those are my most productive hours of the day, because that’s when I am not bothered by anyone. It’s a huge advantage to have a driver, it makes me more efficient.
I read all the research reports and publications I’ve been sent. I get emailed research from all over the world on stocks, the micro-environment and commodities. Throughout the morning, I am constantly consuming great amounts of news and data. I plug myself into the news stream because I don’t like to miss opportunities. I speak to a number of people, such as major investors, throughout the day who ask for my advice on these topics; I have to make sure I can give them an informed answer.
I make a five-minute Skype call to my mother, just to check that everything is fine. She divides her time between France and Tunisia. She wakes up at 5am, which means she’s always up when I call.
I meet potential candidates to work at Menacorp. I receive many CVs and even when – like now – the micro environment is not favourable to hiring, if I come across interesting candidates, I still meet them because I know our roads might cross again. A typical interview lasts 20 minutes. I like alpha people who show their qualities from the get-go. When I look through CVs I’m thinking: “would I like to have this person meet our clients?”
I have meetings in our office with business partners, clients, or the bankers who finance my business. I also hold informal meetings with my team. We have 90 employees, two thirds in Dubai and one third in Abu Dhabi. I go into the dealing room and speak to the person who runs the brokerage team, and our CFO. In between meetings, there are emails to reply to.
I usually choose a French restaurant for a business lunch, which lasts for an hour as I have the bad French habit of a long lunch. I like to take my time to make sure a relationship is built properly. After that, if I don’t have meetings, I go to the gym.
Back-to-back meetings with clients and business partners. We have been in discussion with several institutions to provide margin financing for trading to our clients or to finance our clients when they trade in a Sharia-compliant way. Or I meet a financial institution or bank that does not own a brokerage firm, but would like to offer the service. We can plug everything in and be the executing arm of this bank, while the bank keeps its logo and its clients.
I often go to Abu Dhabi at this time. The shareholders of the company are Abu Dhabi-based and it’s important to stay close to them. I hit traffic exiting Downtown but after that, the traffic is mainly on the other side. My favourite part of the day is twilight, when the birds start singing. I like to see the sun going down, especially in the UAE. I love the colours of the sky here.
I meet casually with my shareholders at their private estates, and after that at their majlis in Abu Dhabi. Or it could be at the majlis of another prominent person. I meet investors and give them a brief about the markets and the economy, and try to strengthen the relationship. I have a light dinner at the majlis.
When I get home, I spend time with my wife. She goes to sleep earlier than I do, but I stay up to read and watch documentaries and news. I never sleep before 1.30am.
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