Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I am currently the Chief Executive Officer of Gatehouse Bank, effective from July 2007. Gatehouse was authorized in April 2008 by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to operate as a wholesale investment bank based in the city of London. Gatehouse is a Shariah-based and fully Shariah compliant bank focusing on capital markets, Shariah advisory services, treasury business and institutional wealth management (including structured products and fund management). We are a subsidiary of The Securities House, one of the leading investment companies in Kuwait, which has operations throughout the GCC as well as in Europe and the US.
Before Gatehouse, I spent 10 years at WestLB, latterly as head of the team originating Shariah compliant financings in the GCC, Turkey and Europe. The most notable transaction was the acquisition of Aston Martin by The Investment Dar and Adeem, where the GBP225 million (US$445 million) Shariah compliant bank facility led by WestLB was the first LBO (leveraged buyout) transaction in the UK to be successfully financed in the Islamic capital markets. Sukuk issues include the Sukuk Musharakah deals for Aayan Leasing and Investment and The Investment Dar, as well as the US$600 million Sukuk Ijarah issue for Dar Al-Arkan Real Estate Development Company, which closed in March 2007 and was the first offshore Sukuk issue out of Saudi Arabia.
Prior to WestLB, I spent 10 years working as a banking lawyer in London and Tokyo with law firms Slaughter and May and Ashurst Morris Crisp.
What does your role involve?
In the start-up phase, I worked closely with the CFO James Bagshawe in setting up the bank and obtaining the FSA authorization. This involved submitting a comprehensive and credible license application, as well as recruiting the right team for the bank’s business strategy. At the same time, we worked extremely hard to ensure our operating system is Basel-II and IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) compliant, and I believe we have managed to create a market-leading Islamic product achieving these targets.
Since now the bank is operational, I am concentrating on the continued development of our business strategy and client relationships, as well as the roll-out of our products.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
The most notable achievement has to be obtaining the FSA license for Gatehouse. Running a close second is the so-far successful recruitment of a team in the bank which I believe gives us the best possible chance of achieving our targets.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Gatehouse is focusing on the capital markets and Shariah advisory service platforms in particular. To achieve our targets, we have hand-picked a team with relevant and extensive experience of delivering Shariah compliant capital markets and investment banking products in our target markets and sectors.
What are the strengths of your business?
Our people and our systems. These two factors, combined with the support and commitment of The Securities House as our shareholder, are the bedrock of our offering. In addition, we believe we have focused on particular product offerings and services which should prove attractive, not only to our investors but also other banks as business partners.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
I would highlight the commitment and support of our The Securities House and the strategic vision of their chairman, Ayman Boodai. Next, I have to point again to the quality of the team we have recruited in all areas of the bank, from the front office to the back.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
I am looking at the opportunities for Gatehouse Bank right now. Early signs are promising in terms of business development, with opportunities arising in each of our key target sectors and geographies.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
In several ways, the sector may well be at a crossroads. The credit crisis in the conventional markets has presented the Islamic financial community to step up to the plate and fill in some of the gaps that have resulted from the liquidity crunch. However, the industry is, in some ways, showing a cohesive response to this opportunity, not least because of the well-publicized discussions regarding certain Musharakah and Mudarabah Sukuk issues already in the market.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
A risk-free Islamic yield curve that parties working in the Islamic finance sector can use as a credible alternative to LIBOR. This is why the proposed Sukuk issues in the UK and Japan are important, and why it will be interesting to see what Hong Kong and Singapore achieve in the near future.
Gatehouse provides world class Shariah compliant wholesale investment banking services.