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Thursday, 29 November 2018

Aladdin El Afifi, Co-CEO, Pharos Holding

My Morning Routine looks each week at how a successful member of the community starts their day — and then throws in a couple of random business questions because we simply can’t help ourselves. Extracts from our conversation this week with Alaa El Afifi, co-CEO at Pharos Holding, our first-ever financial sponsor.

Who are you? I’m Aladdin El Afifi. 42 years old. Husband of a talented and hardworking wife and father of 5-year-old twins who are my pride and joy. I have a younger brother who worked at Pixar and is now with Apple and I am lucky to have grown up in a happy and nurturing environment made possible by the best parents I know. Our small family is also expecting a fifth member soon, albeit of the canine species.

What do you do / what’s your day job? I work as Co-CEO at Pharos Holding, a privately held investment bank undergoing an exciting genetic re-engineering.

What’s your morning routine? I wake up around 5am and have a small breakfast before heading to the club where I either play tennis or go to the gym. I try to mix things up, so the gym can cede its spot to swimming, running or some flexibility work. If I am not traveling, I make it a point to walk the twins to school every day, as I often do not catch them before their bedtime.

What does the rest of your day look like? I get to work between 8:30 am and 9:00 am, starting my day by reading Enterprise and quickly catching up on a few select newspapers, newsletters and blogs. As I help oversee a number of different businesses, time management is paramount. Our businesses are either existing ones with existing teams that operate in a rapidly changing environment or new ventures that we are setting up and building from the ground up. The former need us to pay attention to viability and keep a watchful eye over profitability as they are the current income generators. We keep an entrepreneurial mindset across all our businesses, whether existing or new.

What’s the best thing you’ve watched / read lately? Films including The Captain, Science Fair, Free Solo and shows like Black Mirror, Maniac and Mindhunter. In English, I only read non-fiction and my latest favorite reads were Principles, Factfulness, Sapiens and Measure What Matters.

What’s the origin story of Pharos? Pharos was established by the late industry giant Dr. Mohamed Taymour, a man who is credited as being one of the instrumental figures behind the revival of Egyptian capital markets in the early 1990s. Pharos is a company that is built on the core values of integrity, dedication and teamwork.

What’s Pharos’ niche? Pharos Holding’s strength lies in its brokerage arm and its advisory teams providing attentive and tailor-made services to a host of clients. We are extending these same values to a wider set of clients utilizing a much broader set of financial tools, relying on technology and human talent to leapfrog the prevailing status-quo to achieve impactful results.

What do people not understand about your business? I think our business is very straightforward and easy to understand. New tools allow us to provide additional or better solutions to existing needs. Technology allows us to provide these solutions quicker, more accurately and to a wider under-served client base.

How is the “business of finance” changing? Traditional services are turning into commodities with little or no differentiation amongst providers. Personal relationships and quality service still matter over the longer-run but definitely less so than before. On the other hand, clients now have much more choice and they can make better informed financial decisions. Companies are adapting to the new realities and are investing to capture a share of this “new” landscape and to differentiate themselves from the rest of the field. Technology in some instances complements a service or product and in other instances is quite simply the primary enabler, without which a service would not exist or a portion of the population would not be served.

What do you do in your spare time? As a family, if we’re not in Gouna, we usually go to the movies and spend time with the grandparents. We’re also busy with the twins and their football, ballet and tennis classes. I also enjoy reading and coloring with my daughter and building structured and random lego blocks with my son.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given and by whom? Everybody’s had more than their share of advice but I guess we are each an amalgamation of experiences and what we’ve picked up through trial and error – and hopefully common sense – that shape us and affect how we behave. If any, I always remember my father’s words, which went along the line of Voltaire’s: “Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.” Unfortunately, I’ve only recently begun to take those words to heart. Better late than never.

How do you stay organized? I have two big white boards in my office and I update them regularly and try to prioritize because I know that I will never be able to do everything that I would like to do. I am also after a more balanced life and surprisingly this drives me to be more focused and efficient than before. I admit though that I could be much better organized.

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