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Philippe Ghanem

UAE, ABU DHABI - Finance

A Daily Basis

Vice-Chairman & Executive Managing Director, ADS Securities

Bio

Philippe Ghanem is Managing Director and Vice-Chairman of ADS Securities, the Abu Dhabi-based forex and commodities trading company conceived and developed to offer a world-class global trading and investment company located in the Middle East. He was instrumental in setting up ADS Securities, drawing on his wealth of experience in both establishing and running successful entrepreneurial financial services companies. He is also Deputy CEO and Vice-Chairman of ADS Securities’ parent company, ADS Holding, and Chairman of ADS Securities London Limited. Prior to joining ADS Securities, he successfully created and launched a number of forex businesses. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from the International University of Geneva, Switzerland.

"The priority, of course, is always the client."

How have you seen Abu Dhabi’s financial market develop over the years?

Every year Abu Dhabi’s financial market expands and develops offering more services and products to an ever increasing audience. In the past, investment funds went out of Abu Dhabi into other markets. With the growth of new financial services companies, like ADS Securities, local and international investors are now opening accounts in Abu Dhabi. Today, across a range of asset classes, we have tens of thousands of clients and we trade billions per day. The Chairman of ADS Securities Mahmood Al Mahmood and I came from the same background; we both grew-up in the financial sector. We started on the trading floor, so we understand the whole investment circle. We also complemented each other’s skill sets. He is from the institutional side, and I came more from the entrepreneurial side of the business. However, we have both worked across commodities, FX, equities, and a range of instruments and markets both liquid and illiquid. We recognised that after the global financial crisis that Abu Dhabi would have many advantages over other countries. It is a non-political state with strong capitalization; there is a lot of money here. The technology is well advanced and the Emirate is continually investing in its infrastructure. In terms of the Middle East, it is currently the safest place to build, to grow, to do business, and to bring up your family. There are ups and downs, but you feel that you will succeed when you come to Abu Dhabi. You feel that you personally, as well as your company, will grow and prosper. In addition to the development opportunities the leaders have created in the Emirate, there is also its geographical position. For traders we are perfectly placed so between 7.00 am-11.00 am, the market is here. Asia is closing, and Europe is not yet awake. There is thin liquidity, meaning you can execute any kind of intervention, you can set a price, and lead trading. Between 07:00 am and 11:00 am, Abu Dhabi can bridge trading and flows from Asia to Europe and the UK. The market constantly needs liquidity, and at times when this drops, markets are at risk. When we developed ADS Securities no one thought it would work. Now almost on a daily basis we have global financial service leaders visiting, and doing business, in Abu Dhabi.

How have you developed your products and services to meet your customers’ needs?

The priority, of course, is always the client, as well as our counterparties, the banks, and institutions behind us. We are intermediaries; we are in the middle. We use our experience, expertise, and access to find the best service, investment option, deal, or pricing for our clients. Our clients are from all the global markets; Asia, Europe, and MENA, and we are providing more and more services to all these investors. The response here has been incredibly positive. Investors want an Abu Dhabi financial services company that offers international standards of service, with a local knowledge and approach. To meet the needs of our clients our number one focus is regulation. Regulators don’t want a company to come and take the business out of their country. We want to work with these jurisdictions so we have opened offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, and London, and we are regulated by the SFC and FCA. Our second focus is technology—to have our servers next to the banks and our hardware close to the liquidity providers—which ensures our clients have very fast and efficient trading. Then, of course, we look in detail at the service and support we provide to our clients. Clients need to feel that you are concerned about them and have the resources to offer whatever they need. Clients today just want efficient trading. They don’t want to be concerned about the strength of the company and whether you have the right capitalisation, or the right people to support their investments. I can confirm that we have a lot of clients today, and it is because the clients feel confident to trade with us and that we are a success.

“The priority, of course, is always the client.”

What does your new ADS London office add to your network?

Our office in London will initially be focused on our FX, precious metals, and CFD trading business. This is because London is still responsible for trading 41% of the daily $5.3 trillion currency market, so it is essential that we have a regulated business in the UK. Most of the important liquidity providers, our counter parties, and a number of our largest clients are in the City. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is a respected regulator, and we are very pleased that they have accepted ADS Securities to work alongside some of the most important global financial services companies. Before I could be appointed as Chairman of ADS London, along with James Watson, our Managing Director, we had to go through detailed checks from the FCA to ensure that we met the international standards they work to. Having our London and Hong Kong offices means that we are now regulated in three major markets and act as a genuine bridge from the Far East through the Middle East to Europe and on to North America.

How has the response been in regards to bringing online trading to the Middle East?

We are the first international online trading company headquartered in the Middle East, and the response has been overwhelming. I look at all the awards we have and I am shocked. Every day we have clients willing to trade with us, and we have had a great response. We are a real success story. And we continue to invest in the services we can provide them, including fixed income (bonds), structured products, wealth management, investment banking, and asset management. They like what ADS Securities provides and they want us to grow. People want to put money in ADS and be managed by ADS, because we have qualified people and we have a hands-on approach.

What kinds of new technology are you investing in?

We have a new platform out called OREX Optim, which is a platform made for all kinds of traders, from bank traders to professional traders. It is a platform that gives you the ability to manage all your assets. It is an easy platform to use; it is quick and highly sophisticated. The whole objective of this platform was to build on the idea of giving our clients excellent execution and putting them in charge of their trades. From having developed the first platform in the region we are now creating global technology firsts for Abu Dhabi; for example, we have implemented the world’s first 40 GB FX Ethernet cards. The 40GB network cards allow each tick from multiple liquidity venues to be processed with dramatically reduced delays during volatile market conditions. This option is only available to ADS Securities clients.

What are some challenges you expect going forward?

The financial services sector is always the most competitive in the world. It is a very challenging industry that can also produce great rewards and, if you are not very careful, also losses. To be able to compete against the main well-known firms that have been building their reputation and businesses for many years is difficult. But, for the reasons we have discussed, we believe that we have a unique and important offer and will work day and night to make sure that this is delivered to the market. Our challenge is to keep making money so that we can keep investing in our people, our technology, and services for our clients. We want to be the best and will strive to achieve this even when markets are difficult and investors are cautious. Our vision has always been to demonstrate that the independent financial services sector in Abu Dhabi has a role to play alongside other similar sectors in the world’s leading financial centers.

What are your ambitions for ADS in the long term?

The near-term goals are to consolidate what we have initiated, such as continuing growth in our global market, wealth management, asset management, fixed income, and investment banking services. In the long run, we want to position ourselves globally as a counterpart and contributor to the international financial industry. I think that Abu Dhabi can play a major role—become a market-maker and price-producer for the industry—across a large number of markets. With a stable foundation of people, capital, technology, and regulation in a stable and secure country, Abu Dhabi has all the building blocks for success.

© The Business Year – January 2015

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