My WFH Routine: Mohamed Zein, IRO at Saudi Aramco
Mohamed Zein, IRO at Saudi Aramco: My Morning / WFH 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 just for fun. Speaking to us this week is Mohamed Zein (LinkedIn). Edited excerpts from our conversation:
My name is Mohamed Zein and I am an investor relations officer at Saudi Aramco. I’m responsible for competitive benchmarking, financial analysis, external messaging, and analyst and shareholder engagement within the company's investor relations function. I spent most of my professional career working as a sell-side equity research analyst covering the consumer and healthcare sectors in MENA before transitioning into investor relations right before Saudi Aramco's IPO in 2019.
Bixby wakes me up at 5:30 AM. I quickly go through my notifications and then have my morning dose of stretching. I then log my weight, get ready for work, and read Enterprise while having breakfast and coffee. I haven’t stopped following the Egyptian market since I left for Saudi Arabia, and Enterprise has been my daily source of insight.
I start work at 7:00 AM, so my day starts rather early. I typically spend a great chunk of my time studying the company, the industry, and competitors via daily interaction with the company’s business units, industry experts, and by reading analyst research. The better you understand the business, the more refined your equity story will be. Engagement with analysts and investors is an integral part of my role, and if there’s one thing I learned as an ex-analyst, it’s that you should be prepared, pre-emptive, and ready for all kinds of questions.
Why did I switch from research to IR? Investor relations in the MENA region is still emerging and there is plenty of room for improvement, in my opinion. There is a lot of overlap between the responsibilities and skills of a research analyst and those of an investor relations officer, and analysts are often among the best candidates for investor relations, for their analytical and persuasion skills and capital markets experience. And the chance presented itself.
I am currently working from the office, but like many others, I worked from home for a good chunk of 2020. Productivity and team collaboration were not really impacted during the WFH phase. On the contrary — they improved in many aspects. On a more personal level, I learned basic cooking for the first time in my life and I was able to shed weight, looking at the glass half full. I also used the time to advance my professional skills.
I’m a planner. I don't like to leave things to chance and so I like to maintain mental and electronic checklists. Once I start to feel overwhelmed, I plan for my next vacation, travel permitting, to declutter my mind.
I absolutely miss time on the road. There is no permanent substitute for face-to-face meetings with investors.
As far as getting the work done, webinars / Zoom / individual calls did a good job. The downside was obviously the absence of real life human to human interaction.
I don’t think robots are advanced enough just yet to do my job for me. Algorithms and machine learning are already being used in markets today, but they have not really replaced traditional professions. Investor relations is a job of interpersonal skills and there is as much art as there is science to the job. That said, the pace with which technology advanced over the past 30 years has been mind-boggling. I’m keeping an open mind about it.
There are a number of misconceptions about the investor relations profession. Investor relations is not merely a regulatory or compliance role that companies are required to fill. It is not public relations either. Investor relations is essentially a strategic role that ideally sits near the top of an organization. It’s a tool that provides the market with information about the company that helps investors make informed decisions about the company’s shares. It also provides management with invaluable strategic insight.
The best part of the job is engaging with the market when a company / industry is going through challenges. The worst part is when it’s business as usual.
Investor relations in the MENA region is changing for the better. Institutionalization and corporate governance have been gaining traction in recent years and corporates have started to see investor relations for what it’s worth.
What keeps me up at night? The thought that I could’ve done better at my job that day. That said, it’s the same thought that motivates me the next day.
I’m passionate about knowledge. I have a healthy amount of curiosity.
I typically spend my weekend eating, reading and jogging by the beachfront of the Arabian Gulf. I also like to binge-watch shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
I am big on the fantasy genre. The last book I read was The Wise Man's Fear. I’m currently reading Narrative Management in Corporate Japan – Investor Relations as Pseudo-Reform. I recently watched (and loved) The Queen’s Gambit, and I listen to classics non-stop.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given: Stop saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no.’