Ahmed Badr, the newly-installed Dubai CEO and head of MENA equities at Renaissance Capital, knows a thing or two about surviving a crisis. Having joined Credit Suisse's Middle East operation in April 2008 as an equity researcher covering real estate and infrastructure, he was at the centre of the storm as the both the property bubble burst in the emirate and global banks starting swinging the axe.
At the time, he was part of a 28-strong equities team at Credit Suisse in the region. By December 2012, having been promoted to head of MENA equities at the bank, he was the sole member remaining. When the situation started to look up, he was then challenged to build a new team and make the business profitable again.
“This was the biggest challenge, and biggest break, of my career and helped me gain my current position,” he tells us.
RenCap’s new office in Dubai is due to open this summer, and has already also added both Omar Darwish as a sales-trader and execution trader and Omair Ansari as a research analyst. The plan is to recruit another two or three research analysts, says Badr, which will be the limit of the front office hiring for 2014. “We have plans to expand the team further in 2015,” he says. “We will be opportunistic and if we need to have people on the ground for any potential deals, we will.”
Badr says that his specialism in MENA equity markets, combined with RenCap’s ambitions to bolster its market share in the region makes his move a “perfect fit”. “We see significant growth potential in MENA markets and want to grow with this region,” he adds.
How did you break into investment banking? What advice would you offer others looking to do so?
I started out as a car salesman in 2004 in my home country of Egypt. It didn't provide much of a grounding for banking, but it helped develop the sort of sales personality that has helped throughout my career. My father is a banker and he advised me to consider it as a career, as well as giving me some tips about the industry and how to get in.
My first banking job was in equity research at a local firm, HC Brokerage, but I also worked in trading and sales during my time there. The Middle East is hungry for technical knowledge and the research department is the kitchen of investment banking - it's a great fundamental base from which to start your career.
What was your biggest break?
In 2006, I moved to Dubai with HC brokerage and then joined Credit Suisse in 2008, when most banks were making significant headcount cuts, and worked as an analyst covering real estate and construction. Research was the first business area to get cut and property was arguably the most exposed sector in the region. However, my client relationships really helped me survive the cuts - without their votes and support, I'm sure I would have lost my job.
I was part of a 28-man team initially, but by 2012 was the only person remaining. I was head of equities and mandated with rebuilding the team and making it profitable again with limited resources.
This was the biggest challenge, and biggest break, of my career and helped me gain my current position.
Has your career been conventional or capricious?
I've stayed in equities, which is relatively conventional, but I've worked across all the functions - sales, trading and research - within that, which is usual. The most important thing is the technical knowledge and ability to generate ideas; the best part of the job is pitching your best ideas to clients and then debating or defending those stock ideas. I was spending more time on the phone pitching to clients, rather than writing research, so decided to make the switch.
What three things would you advise someone to do before stepping into an interview with you?
Very simply, be yourself, be humble and don't oversell your abilities because you'll be found out straight away.
Imagine I want to work for you, what qualities could I exhibit that would make you hire me?
As far as Renaissance Capital is a very entrepreneurial place and looking for entrepreneurial people which is the thing that excited me the most. You should be super-ambitious, entrepreneurial and hard-working.
What's a surefire way NOT to get hired by you?
It comes back to over-selling yourself - the Middle East is a small place and all equity professionals in the region know each other or have worked with one another. If you are not credible and don’t know your stuff, then you won’t last.
What do you do to relax?
I like boxing, which I've been doing for a couple of years, and horse riding, which I've been doing since I was four.
What would you do if you weren't working in finance?
I'd like to run a small Italian restaurant on the Red Sea. There are not enough proper restaurants in Egypt.
Who do you most admire?
My father - he taught me everything about banking, so I owe my career to him.