Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
After spending more than 20 years in the banking sector, most of it on both the analytic and business development sides of corporate banking in Hill Samuel and Bayerische Landesbank (BayernLB) in London, I moved to Duff and Phelps (which combined with Fitch IBCA in 2000 to form FitchRatings) in 1998, where I initially focused on corporate rating activities in both the developed and emerging markets. From the time of the merger, I spent some years focusing on the telecommunications, media and technology sector before taking on my current role in 2005.
What does your role involve?
As head of emerging markets, I have an analytical role within Fitch, which includes the development and implementation of rating criteria across the EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) region, including Sukuk and the GCC countries. I also manage Fitch’s corporate analytical staff in Africa, where we have regional offices in both Johannesburg and Tunis.
Fitch serves emerging market investors globally and I work in close cooperation with colleagues responsible for the American and Asia-Pacific regions.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
There is nothing more rewarding than when you have that winning feeling, whether it’s gaining a mandate for your bank to lead arrange a corporate loan syndication or to establish new rating assignments.
As a rating analyst, this feeling comes to you when you make timely and accurate market-leading rating calls.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Obviously, for a rating agency, the core product is the public credit rating of issuers and financial obligations. However, in the emerging markets there is significant demand for credit assessment products. The analytical staff are active in meeting and evaluating companies in the region that are interested in going to the capital markets, but before making a decision to proceed, they want to understand what rating Fitch would be likely to assign to them.
Corporate governance and transparency present challenges in analyzing corporate credits in the emerging markets. Many of these assessments have eventually been converted into public ratings.
What are the strengths of your business?
Fitch prides itself on the quality and timeliness of its ratings and research.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Market-leading rating actions, high-quality research and low staff turnover at the senior analytical level.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
Fitch is viewed as one of the big three global rating agencies and huge gains have been made in developing investor demand for our ratings. Having broken into the top tier of an industry previously dominated by main players means that we must constantly offer more than our competitors to overcome any inertia-led resistance to market participants’ adoption of our ratings.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
High oil prices have driven strong liquidity in the GCC oil producing states and have provided the Islamic finance market with a good growth momentum.
Efforts to invest in infrastructure and the diversification of the regional economies and a natural preference to use Shariah compliant structures where possible are only likely to sustain this growth.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
While Fitch does not require Sukuk to be Shariah compliant to assign credit ratings, greater consistency and clarity with regard to what is and isn’t compliant would further support the market’s development.
Fitch Ratings is dual-headquartered in New York and London, operating offices and joint ventures in more than 49 locations and covering entities in more than 90 countries, including insurer financial strength ratings on over 2,000 insurance companies. Fitch Ratings is a majority-owned subsidiary of Fimalac, SA, an international business support services group headquartered in Paris, France.