Strong financial leadership is significant to determine that the organization remains financially adaptable while resilient and sustainable in today’s fierce market. Imran Ladhani, Head of Investment Operations at Gulf Islamic Investments LLC (GII), is one such Investment Operations & finance expert taking the company’s operations team to the next level while thriving the business performance.
Imran started his professional career at Deloitte in Saudi Arabia. In early 2000, In those days, the Banking & Financial services sector was at its peak, and most professionals who are gearing up for a bright career was anticipating getting placed into the financial industry to earn dreamed paychecks, Imran opted to concentrate on non-financial sectors. Soon, he became the lead auditor for some of the big names in the region, like Fawaz Al Hokair Fashion Retail, selling more than 100 garments and apparel brands in Saudia Arabia from more than 2000 retail outlets in the Kingdom. Other notable clients were Middle East Specialized Cables (MESC), Saudi Geant Hypermarkets & International Food chain companies.
Opportunities arise when no one expects. Imran remembers the day he got his first assignment as a field assistant for one of the region’s well-known banks. The scope of the engagement was related to the review of the internal process and proposed restructuring. His role was to understand and draft internal process maps and dataflow diagrams and carry out the walk-through tests to formulate and validate the process. He cherishes that opportunity to date. He asserts, “The experience was so vivid that it helped me to secure a job at The National Investor PJSC, which was one of the well-known names in the region in the early 2000s.” And his journey of success in the financial sector begins.
Opportunities lies under challenging times
According to him, challenges drive human growth. Like every leader, he firmly believes opportunities lies under challenging times. In 2008, When the news Lehman brothers collapsed was shaking the wall streets trading floors & other financial sectors were in an indeterminate state across the globe, Imran was trying to settle down with his new job as Middle Office Manager in Abu Dhabi. He deems, “I still remember those sleepless nights because I was under my probationary period and terminating me was a zero-cost decision to the firm. Thanks to Almighty, I was one of those who survived.” A significant human resource reduction across the firm required restructuring the process, where he played an instrumental role in revamping the company processes and documentation. The company was back on its growth track in a short period, and the funds were reviewed by Standard & Poors and achieved an “A” Rating. Imran also was the first in the region who launched a MENA Fund, domiciled in Ireland with UCITS Passport from TNI’s platform. He registered the fund in many European countries for distribution through various institutional distribution platforms.
The best investment one can make to earn the highest returns is to keep upgrading his skill and knowledge. He deems, “The best investment is to invest in your knowledge and skill. The hunger to learn more, gaining new skillset & experiences keep you ahead in the competition.”
What is Success?
Imran sees success as a very vibrant term. He believes the definition of success keeps changing as we move forward in our lives. He opines, “We experienced frequent changes in the definition of success as we grow older. The true meaning of success lies in to dream, strive and achieve what you dream.”
Career growth map
At present, Imran is associated with Gulf Islamic Investments Group. The group has a clear and defined vision to be the pre-eminent shariah-compliant investment company by building shareholder wealth and remain committed to its stakeholders. The organization is leading with the mission to capitalize on its regional solid networks and management expertise to provide a diverse set of global investment opportunities across various asset classes and industries, all in compliance with the ethical principles of Islamic Finance.
As Head of Operations, Imran ensures that the company’s process and deliverables are aligned with the company’s objective and can assist in achieving future growth targets. He says, “Synchronization in the company’s resources is vital to deliver a perfect tune of success to the whole world.”
Recognition works as a positive push and brings inspiration for more progress. Imran finds recognition as an essential aspect of one’s life. He describes, “Recognition drives the commitment and provides consistency to positive action.” He recalls the day when TNI Mena UCITS Fund was launched and started trading in MENA markets. The energy on the trading floor was on a different level. Everyone was feeling the pride of being associated with the first UCITS fund, and all the credit extends to Senior Management and Imran for making this happened. He opines, “For me, recognition is at its best in its intangible form. Customer trust, Employer’s belief, user’s convenience all adds to the recognition of what we do in our lives.”
Leaders are defined by their ability to solve problems, and Imran always wants to be seen as a convergent thinker & troubleshooter. He adds, “It provides a great level of satisfaction when people approach to discuss their issues with a hope that I will contribute positively to solve their issues with my technical knowledge and expertise.”
At GII Group, Imran leads a team responsible for all investment operational matters related to investment structuring, jurisdiction selection, entity creations, shareholding structures, defining share classes, client services & reporting, engaging with the right counterparts of different areas such as fund administrators, auditors, tax advisors. He is vastly experienced in fund launch, establishing foundations, Entity creation with various share classes series & advising on licenses from multiple jurisdictions. During his career, he has worked with Irish regulatory authority, Abu Dhabi Global Market, Dubai International Financial Centre and many off-shore jurisdictions such as Bermuda, Cayman Island, British Virgin Island & Mauritius in various roles representing his employer as Compliance officer, Responsible officer, Risk Officer & Fund Director.
Working with Passion
“Working for the investment industry was always my passion,” says Imran. He believes that everyone should always follow their passion. The passion drives people to go long and pass the struggling phases with stability and consistency. Without it, one cannot survive long and might feel stuck on a particular stage in his carrier path, which can be very infuriating.
Imran points out that a strong bonding and connection within the team enhances the output at work. At GII Group, the teams always engage in activities that encourage team building and complete challenging tasks. He asserts, “Group training programs, physical activity challenges, and outdoor hangouts not only help in connecting employees but also their families. At GII, We are fortunate to find new ways to continue our team building initiatives and had minimized the impact of COVID & lockdowns.”
He believes that GII Group is well-positioned in the Islamic world and considered one of the solid key players with the best team to source, evaluate, & execute the investment deals, which warrants a double-digit growth for GII’s Asset under management. He asserts, “In the current market, where the listed securities are considered highly volatile due to uncertainties such as COVID lockdowns and other regional political situations, the right place is to be in Private Equity with exposure in incoming generating real estate assets and Healthcare that provides stable, long term returns opportunities and also considered as safe heaven investments with minimum downside risk. Engaging with the right institution is very important because they will ensure the assets/investment is acquired on a correct valuation, can produce long term returns and have been protected and insured from all possible hazards”.
Advice to future leaders.
In the last couple of years, Imran has witnessed a significant shift in the work scope of the banking & investment industry. He believes that the Financial Services Industry is changing at its fastest pace due to Fintech development and other IT-related advancements taking away the structured work from human hands. The COVID lockdown and success of the remote working model have fueled many changes in the sector. It has become a necessity for youngsters to be careful & cautious in deciding about their career. He advises that people should first gain some experience in the field they wish to move forward in and consider all the possibilities of its existence and growth before pursuing a specialization in any specific field/sector.