More Referees than Players

Musk said it best: ‘Civilisations decline when they quit taking risks, their arteries harden’.


Back in the land of mere mortals, the same could be said of financial services & so many other sectors awash with regulation and policed by an army of referees to the point that competition and risk taking are muted or worse still curtailed completely.     


We meet hundred’s of talented and responsible fund managers & founders every year all over the world, 100% of them are aligned that protecting vulnerable investors & preventing money laundering is paramount. However, most would also comment (privately for fear of sanction) that the ‘hammer to crack a nut’ compliance culture that pervades so many markets acts as a significant brake on creativity, innovation & risk taking.


Fundamental concepts of caveat emptor (buyer beware) have been supplanted by rules & enforcement. We know of firms in G7 countries who can’t even charge commercial fees for their services due to oversight from regulators! No great surprise then those firms aren’t innovating, creating employment or thrilling their customers, instead they are struggling to survive.




Next time you’re having a look around any of the top global recruiting platforms, count the number of compliance related jobs open compared to roles for client facing, marketing, sales or strategic professionals. Those referees are also super people just trying to do the right thing, but fundamentally haven’t we got this completely wrong with the cart now leading the horse?


If we want any business sector to grow, there should be many more players than referees & opportunities for new players to enter the industry.           


One of the many reasons why UAE, Bahrain and the rest of GCC is eating the lunch of the main financial services markets in the West is the adoption of a blended business culture. Here, you are encouraged and rewarded to take risk but within a pragmatic framework of regulation. This is not a region that tolerates the heinous use of the financial system by bad actors. (Remember, if you misbehave here your residence is cancelled and you’re deported faster than it takes to order your flat white) However, neither will there be much interference in your commercial dealings, the fees and prices you charge or constant threats of imprisonment (!) should you make an honest mistake.  Regulators here are known for informing and supporting best practise not killing the golden goose.


Focusing on the UAE, the big picture plan is to bring the world’s asset management industry into the region, learn, transfer IP and knowledge and embed the sector and talent pathways into the economy. It knows that to succeed against the legacy financial centres like London and Hong Kong, it cannot be led by so much compliance, so much stricture that nobody comes or stays.      


Consumers in most verticals demand to be thrilled by innovation at the right price delivered by passionate and purpose driven professionals. They don’t seek me-too, cheap products with endless terms & conditions delivered by scripted call centres.


Will you join us in fighting for the risk takers, the crazy ones, the visionaries? 

Send us an email if so.