The Business Year

Said Ahmed Safrar

OMAN - Economy

Said Ahmed Safrar

CEO, Oman Investment & Finance Company (OIFC)

Bio

Said Ahmed Safrar holds an MBA from the University of Hull in the UK, with more than 27 years of professional experience in the banking, telecoms, and investment sectors. He was chief customer experience officer with Omani Qatari Telecommunications Company SAOG (Ooredoo) before joining Oman Investment and Finance Co SAOG as CEO in 2014. He is a board member of Sohar International Bank SAOG, Financial Corporation Co SAOG, Taageer Finance Company SAOG, Dhofar Generating Company SAOG, Wasel Exchange SAOC, and The First Mazoon Fund. He completed a senior executive leadership program at Harvard Business School.

OIFC is focusing on digitalizing and introducing smart systems all in a bid to be part of the goals of Vision 2040.

What is the strategic reasoning behind your merger plans with Gulf Investment Services Holding Co (GIS)?

The merger with GIS was part of our own diversification. We took over the company by offering them cash bonds and shares in OIFC which was a good deal for both sides. The result for that was an increase of our own capital by about 12%, with the rest paid partially in cash and partially over a five-year bond with a cover rate. We are striving to find similar companies in the future and replicate the merger. The time for consolidations and mergers is now, and people would do well to set aside issues of ego to explore the benefits and synergies that can be built with other institutions to advance their own businesses.

How are you expanding your mobile app, and what other technologies are you bringing to your operations?

As a service provider to the service providers, we are the middle institution that serves the end user or the public. We constantly come up with solutions that are safe and fast for the customer and bring the service providers quick revenues, stability, and customer service. We are now a publicly listed company, with more than 2,300 shareholders and a huge network with about 64 branches and an Omanization rate of above 95%. We provide a centralized collection point for customers for payment of all their electricity, water, and telecom utilities in addition to collection of Public Authority for Social Insurance monthly subscription and recharge services offered for all telecom operators and all electricity distribution companies in the Sultanate as well as recharge services for global top dominant online entertainment platforms and gaming solutions through our e-store services. We rely on the bank’s system to protect client security and make sure there is no customer data breach. We became the one place to do all your transactions quickly, accurately, secure, and encrypted, which helps people save their own information in one system. It also gives all service providers more time to create their own designs, plan for their own products, services, and offers, and serve their own clients with greater freedom. Besides that, we have an exchange company mandated also to accept bill payments at its 21 branches. Also, we have installed additional bill payment machines in strategic locations to provide more payment outlets for our valued customers. We now have 54 such machines functioning in all major wilayats of the Sultanate. We serve close to a quarter million clients on a monthly basis, doing technology-based transactions through our own platforms, which were not there four or five years ago. We are now striving to add more services with different government bodies.

What sectors are you looking to adding to your range of services?

We currently have investments in banking, brokerage, finance, exchange companies, as well as a power station construction company. Besides that, we own 40% of an investment fund and have other small investments in a number of publicly listed companies. In a unique investment of ours, we are the single-largest company in the country that acquires bad debts. We buy those debts as we have the network for the entire billing of water, electricity, and telecoms, which helps us to process the settlements. And now we are keen to replicate with our acquisition of GIS. We are in a place where we should invest locally, but we have to keep an eye on the regional and international markets, as the cost of funding some places in the world is much cheaper than in Oman. We have a highly supportive board of directors that is pushing us to further go for greater investment and more benefits for their own shareholders.

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