Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I came to Moody’s in London in 2003 after seven years in banking, starting with Dresdner Kleinwort, and then with Citigroup. When I joined Moody’s, I took over a portfolio of European utility companies, and one year later, took on the oil and gas portfolio, including companies in Russia, which was a tremendously enjoyable industry to cover. This also led me to look at companies in the Middle East, and from 2006 onwards, I found myself in the region regularly.
When Moody’s decided to open an office in Dubai, I was immediately interested, given the dynamic evolution of the markets here, and so I have been there since January. I am responsible for corporate ratings in the GCC territory.
What does your role involve?
I am the lead analyst for corporate ratings in the GCC, as well as the local contact person for corporate finance in the region. This involves building up and monitoring the ratings of those companies that have appointed us, mainly to facilitate the raising of funds, either in conventional form or as Sukuk. I also act as the local point of contact for parties interested in our opinions, including banks, investors, lobby groups or the media, and have therefore been active in publishing topical research on local issues, including Sukuk.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Admittedly, I’ve been helped by tremendous market growth, but I hope to have been able to position Moody’s as a credible market participant in the GCC debt and credit markets, and thus contribute to building and establishing a credit culture in the region. We started the year with a blank canvas as far as corporate Sukuk are concerned, and today have assigned ratings to nearly US$6 billion of Sukuk.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
The best results are provided when we get the rating right, which can sometimes only be verified with hindsight. A good indication is often when everyone — from issuers to investors and bankers — is equally satisfied without anyone being ecstatic. But more importantly, the best results are achieved when all market constituents understand what we are doing and how we derived our final opinion. We need to apply the same high standards to the demands of our own analytical and methodological transparency as we do to the demands we place on our issuers.
What are the strengths of your business?
We have a great team around the world that comprises professional, knowledgeable and specialized analysts. Also, Moody’s understands the importance of a local presence in markets such as those in the Gulf. We have been opening new offices around the world, and one of the reasons we decided to open one in Dubai was to establish local knowledge and to be accessible to local market constituents. Personally and as an organization, we have already benefited from our Dubai office in understanding local markets, laws, cultures and management styles, which are factored into our company analyses. It also allows us to react to the demands of local issuers, investors and bankers quickly.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Apart from analytical accuracy, the success of our business is essentially people-driven. Although we have been familiar with the Gulf region for many years through our sovereign and banking ratings, our corporate presence is fairly new, given the early stage of the corporate bond market’s development. Therefore, an important success factor is that we listen, learn, understand the corporate market in the region and use all this to derive opinions that are universally consistent and understood.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
We need to carefully manage growth and ensure that we are always able to provide issuers with consistently focused and professional service standards. We need to ensure that we have the right number and caliber of people on the ground to match demand.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
Without a doubt, I see the Islamic finance industry continuing to grow with the Gulf states playing an increasingly important role, and the DIFC potentially emerging as the regional center for Sukuk. I would also expect to see increased issuance of Sukuk by non-Islamic issuers aimed at attracting Shariah compliant investors, as well as a greater diversification of Islamic finance products, including derivatives and securitizations.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
I would hope to see a greater standardization of Sukuk structures and documentation emerge over time as well as a deeper, more liquid secondary market.
Moody’s Investors Service is among the world’s most respected and widely utilized sources for credit ratings, research and risk analysis. In addition to its core ratings business, Moody’s provides research data and analytic tools for assessing credit risk, and publishes market-leading credit opinions, deal research and commentary; serving more than 9,300 customer accounts at some 2,400 institutions around the globe.