Could you share with us the perception of risk management within the Kuwaiti financial environment?
On a micro level, I would say it has come a long way. Risk assessment has been one of the pillars of the capital Markets authority, the ministry of trade and the Central Bank.
A large part of our business at Dimah Capital has been risk assessment. I come from an international background, having worked almost 30 years in London with different institutions. After the financial crisis of 2008-10, we understood that survival was linked to having a proper risk assessment strategy. Overall, new regulations and international standards requirements as well as local have made the situation improve.
Since 2011 most of our deals have been international deals in the UK and US. We have not looked locally or regionally. We have been prepared to fulfill all the risk evaluations and our internal systems are duly in place to monitor this.
What is the key philosophy at the core of Dimah Capital?
We pride ourselves of our standards: straightforward, honest, and disciplined.
We have a highly educated and very professional team, most UK or US educated. English is the first language at Dimah Capital. Our strength is in our people, backed by systems, control, rules and regulations and discipline. Aside from the guidelines provided to us by the Central Bank, the Capital Markets Authority or by our Sharia Board; we put our own international guidelines much more stricter than the ones just mentioned.
We have a strict KYC guideline for our clients, and we are very strong in terms of regulation.
At present we have a total AUM in the order of 600m USD. We recently exited from some property deals in the UK, before we had AUM in the order of 1bn USD. At present we are working on two deals, in the UK and US in commercial property.
In regards to the experience of doing business with international clients, what was their reaction to the fact that Dimah Capital is a Kuwaiti firm?
At the start it was cumbersome. Our international background made things easier. People trusted us and supported us, whether it was KYC on clients, source of funding, etc. In the start the image people have of Kuwait and the region was difficult.
When we set our portfolios and funds we wanted to be international. We had a counterpart in Brussels. It was not easy, but we adequated ourselves to strong regulation and requirements and in the end it’s an added value which we provide to our clients.
Could you comment on your experience at HSBC and your relationship with the GCC countries?
I spent 9 years at HSBC. I always regard HSBC as an important and imposing British institution, 7500 branches around the world and over 500,000 employees worldwide. For me it was a fantastic experience added to my previous work experience. I had the chance of visiting Kuwait and the Gulf with my senior managers then. Those trips helped them understand more about the regional culture and business practices here in the Gulf; as we used to administer money for Gulf clients. Whenever the Gulf clients sent their junior or senior managers for training in London I was asked to cater for them.
In regards to the efforts being undertaken by KDIPA to reposition Kuwait and develop a new legal framework for investments; what is your opinion on this matter?
The Government is putting efforts into this new institution. It is hard to change the brand and perception of a country in a short period of time. It becomes crucial to transform this. Whenever I look abroad for jurisdictions to invest our funds, I look at equity protection, regulation, legal system and structure.
Finally, could you share with our readers your thoughts on the current low-oil prices for Kuwait and also the international scene and how it affects your company?
I am not sure the low oil price will affect Kuwait and the Gulf too much, obviously it will affect their revenues. Kuwait has one of the biggest sovereign wealth funds in the world and the new announcements of projects by the Government will certainly provide the country with an opportunity.
At Dimah we have not seen much impact. From the start we decided to focus on top quality investments: UK and US. Sterling is going up against the Euro and the USD has been going up against everything, so we are very optimistic as these are our two key markets.