Simply Abu Dhabi XX

7 8 S I M P LY A B U DH A B I Arnie: Do you think innovation is a big part of becoming a pioneer in the banking sector? Ala’a: It is a critical contributor and works hand in hand with quality and service. What I mean by that is we use innovation to improve service and customer experience, not let innovation get in the way of it. We give great service despite us being innovative, not because we are innovative. Innovation in banking should be relevant, meaningful and work properly. Usually in our industry, innovation is used to make our customers’ lives simpler or more convenient - but the art of the minimum requires the maximum discipline. Take Apple, for instance; if their products didn't work correctly, no matter how innovative, you wouldn’t buy them. They have to be meaningful and work properly. And it's the same with a bank. Arnie: In what areas do you see the most opportunities for your business to grow in 2016? What are your expansion plans? Ala’a: Our focus for the past five years, and continuing for at least the next three years, is core business and core geography. We're not going to expand internationally, and we're not getting into any exotic business lines or products. We will stay focused on our retail, commercial and corporate businesses and stay focussed in the UAE. That’s where our expertise lies and where the opportunity remains. Arnie: Is the UAE not a saturated market for banking? Ala’a: No. All banks here are profitable and we each have a chance to take market share, and do more of what we do best. The UAE is growing in all key economic indicators, and I think that the competition is good. It really separates the weak from the strong. It forces those of us who want to stay in the business and stay profitable to be better. And you can't just be better in part - you have to improve on everything, or be selective. Arnie: What about the wow factor? Without disclosing information, what's the largest line of credit you provided to anyone? Ala’a: Honestly, every project has a wow factor. It’s not about the size of the line of credit - it’s about seeing something that started as a person or company’s idea or ambitionmove through the various stages of planning, development, execution and maturity. There is so much satisfaction in seeing ambitions being realised, from someone buying their first home to a multi-billion dollar company building a new skyscraper – it is very humbling and never gets boring. Arnie: Can you tell Simply AbuDhabi one thing about yourself that your teammembers don't know about? Ala’a: They know almost everything! I'd say the top ten people I work with know everything. I have no private life within the building. They knowmy family, and I share where I'm going. It’s 100% transparent. There's nothing to hide. Arnie: Do you have any innovative management methods you use to inspire your team? Ala’a: Every day there's something new. That's my job. I have to keep them excited. We get speakers in, or we send people out. I try not to do mass in-house training courses. Instead of sending ten people to a seminar, I will send one person to an Ivy League business school. We protect their job for when they come back, so they don't worry about it and can just focus on the course. And they return with something of world-class quality that will last a lifetime that they can cascade to their teams. But it's not just about the course. It’s about saying, "We're investing in you." We find that people don't forget that; they appreciate it and are loyal to us in return. Arnie: What worries you the most commercially? Ala’a: I used to worry about everything, but have learnt to separate what I can control from what I can’t. For example, China’s economy is completely out of my zone of control, but the direct exposure we have as a bank is, so I focus on that. Other than that, I have a deep sense of duty about two other things. Our shareholders’ money that I'm trusted to lead is a big responsibility. And I have five thousand families who depend on the employment of this bank. I'm not just responsible for the staff – I look at it as five thousand families depending on us. Arnie: I guess it boils down to minimising risk. Ala’a: And that's our job. We cannot eliminate it, but we can manage it and minimise it. Arnie: What's the best advice anyone has ever given you? Ala’a: My father told me there's no substitute for hard work. You have to work hard for everything. And you draw the line when it comes to integrity. That's it. Integrity is sacred. The rest is up to God and destiny. My father is my inspiration. Arnie: Moving on to a bit of personal information. They say time is money - we'd love to know what watch you're wearing. Is it Richard Mille? Ala’a: Yes, it's an RM23. I have a passion for watches, and own a small collection. Each one has significance to me. Arnie: How is your time managed between your work and your personal life? Ala’a: Something has to give; in my case it’s a social life. Weekdays are for my work, evenings for my family. Weekends I have one day that's for me, when I do whatever socialising I can do. Maybe I play some golf, or go out on a boat, or go for dinner. Sometimes I meet clients at the weekend, but I consider that to be work and I don't like to mix the two. My work is very important but that cannot function properly unless family is taken care of, a proper balance is maintained, and I instil that in my colleagues too. Arnie: If you weren't in banking and finance, what do you think you'd be doing? Ala’a: I'd be an hotelier for sure. It's my second passion. I learn a lot from hotels, and apply it in banking. I sit on the board of the Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company, and have financed many hotels in my banking career. The hotel industry is of special interest to me, and it's not only about building them, but the design, experience and service behind them, too. Arnie: While we're on the subject, what's your favourite hotel and destination? Ala’a: Anywhere on the beach. I might be biased, but the Park Hyatt Saadiyat ticks all the boxes for me in terms of beach, quality and service - the whole experience. It's my personal favourite. Although I am lucky to stay in a lot of hotels all over the world, and there are some pretty amazing ones. Arnie: What about cuisine? What's your favourite food? Ala’a: Anything that's good quality. I like all kinds of fusion food, sushi, steak - but if I had to choose one cuisine, I'd go for Italian. Arnie: What's your favourite music or musician? Ala’a: Oh, that's a difficult one. I guess it would have to be a guitarist - maybe Santana? There's always an iPod in my car with a Santana playlist at the ready. I also like The Doors - I'm old school. Arnie: What are your thoughts on Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a country – where are we going? What do you think of the 2030 vision the government has put in place? Ala’a: It's a great plan with very strong economic foundations and a real focus on infrastructure. There’s no better place to live than Abu Dhabi - it's peaceful, secure, safe, and fun! Families here are completely diverse, which is so beautiful. I'll tell you a story: my son once brought a friend home from school; he looked Middle Eastern, but had a European name. I was intrigued, so I asked where he came fromoriginally, andmy son said, "I don't know! He's my friend from school, who cares?” I was sorry - of all people I shouldn't have asked that. And it's a real reminder that this really is the best environment. Arnie: Of course Baba Zayed was like this - he believed so much in the multicultural element to Abu Dhabi, and you can see it everywhere. Ala’a: His legacy is all around us for everyone to appreciate and enjoy – and it will be forever. He was such a visionary who was ahead of his time, a great leader of no match whom we all have so much to be thankful for. Everything he achieved was by no means an accident - he believed in everything, in his visions and his execution and delivery were perfect. Arnie: And, lastly, our signature question: what do you think of Simply Abu Dhabi? Ala’a: Quality, quality, quality! From the minute you look, the quality is impeccable. The subject itself - Abu Dhabi - you're the first to really show it off in such richness. The photography and articles - everything is timeless. It doesn't matter if it's the latest issue or one from last year, you can always look and enjoy the articles, which makes it a favourite. It's something you don't want to throw away. Well done! Arnie: Thank you so much. And thank you for your time today and sharing your insights. Ala’a: It was my pleasure!