Mostafa Abdel Aziz, managing partner and co-founder of Act Financial
Mostafa Abdel Aziz, managing partner and co-founder of Act Financial: Each week, my Morning / WFH Routine looks 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 Mostafa Abdel Aziz, managing partner and co-founder of Act Financial (LinkedIn).
I’m Mostafa Abdel Aziz, and I’m one of the managing partners and co-founders of Act Financial. I was previously CEO of Beltone Brokerage and I've been working in capital markets for the past 18 years or so. There are three separate aspects to my role at Act: manager, partner and co-founder. As a co-founder there's a sense of belonging and passion for something you created; where you’ve helped to choose the name, the logo, the vision and mission for the company. The management side of things encompasses everything I do in my day to day job as an active executive. Being a partner in the company creates a sense of ownership that has been unique to my involvement with Act.
We established Act back in 2014 and have been active in the market for the past 6-7 years. We marked our first investment with the joint acquisition of Beltone Financial with Orascom (Orascom Telecom Media and Technology at the time) back in 2015 where we agreed to managing the subsidiary full-time for a four-year period. Afterwards, we went back to positioning Act Financial as an investment company and decided we would remain at the holding level.
We believe in an active role for investors in unlocking value. We’re not an asset manager — we actually invest our own money in target companies and invite co-investors to create strategic consortiums. Our primary interest is in enhancing a company’s shareholder structure, its vision and its direction. Although we don’t have specific criteria — in terms of sector allocations — guiding our investments, capital markets have been especially interesting to us recently. Given that the market in Egypt is underperforming global equities and even the domestic private equity market, the pandemic has given us a great chance to take good companies at a significant discount for no reason other than market inefficiency.
The pandemic taught us to appreciate liquidity. Our assessment of companies and analysis of sectors has adjusted to appreciate liquidity and transaction structure over value. The pandemic has proven that things can dramatically change and get out of control pretty fast. A better liquidity position allows you to better adjust and restructure yourself according to those shocks, which is why we’re more appreciative of capital markets and stocks over private equity at this stage.
We already ran a very headcount-cautious and efficient investment setup so the pandemic didn’t really change our operations. We never actually applied a strict WFH model, especially since we have separate offices where we can maintain enough social distancing. I generally don’t really like the idea of WFH at all. It changes a very fundamental portion of the work environment. Getting out of the house and brainstorming with the rest of the team is what really helps get me in the zone. I used to work on a trading floor most of my life, where instant communication was crucial. In our industry it's very important for people to communicate and interact face to face, especially with partners.
Although I’m not really a morning person, I wake up at 6:30 am and make it into the office no later than 8:30 am. I start my day by reading Enterprise from bed and grab a coffee on my way to the office. From 8:30-10 am I interact with all the investment banks and continue consuming a lot of news. I’m extremely connected to the stock market, which is one of those habits you really never kick, even if you don't need to be. All that information helps me form my opinions. We scan prices when the market opens before meeting with senior staff to discuss the news and investment updates, but I always have one eye on the stock market screen at any given time. The rest of the day is usually spent brainstorming ideas for existing investments or discussing the planned pipeline of investments and typically ends at 4 or 5 pm. We all live pretty close by so we often have evening meetings or partner gatherings to continue brainstorming.
I make sure to spend time with my 11-year-old son every day. We either go for a walk or just sit and chat. He’s not 11 by my standards. When I was his age I was a kid, but he’s practically a man now — it’s like he’s my friend. Before the pandemic, I used to have a very packed calendar: Each month had at least one trip, but now I have a bit more time.
The secret to personal success throughout my life has been brainstorming. It's what creates everything. Talking and discussing with your close colleagues and the people outside your comfort zone is what gives light to new ideas and thinking outside of the box. It's crucial to our identity and DNA as Act.
I’ve been writing in my down time over the past year and I’m almost done with a novel called Euphoria. It's a new hobby I've picked up since the pandemic started which I try to make some time for every day. It sort of happened by coincidence. I had some ideas in my head for a story and realized that there isn't much stock market literature in Egypt so I started writing this story about the stock market and how it affects your psychology. It goes into the different psychological make up of investors and how that affects their investment decisions. I really enjoyed the experience, it was completely out of my comfort zone.
I've been writing way more than I've been reading these days but I guess I would recommend checking out my book when it comes out. I watch some episodes of Suits and How I Met Your Mother before I sleep, just to wind down. Suits is a nice workplace series which gives you an idea of corporate intelligence, and How I Met You Mother is just light.
Staying positive is really important for getting through a crisis as a team. I think the stock market teaches you that losses are a very normal part of life. You see it so often that it neutralizes negative feelings and can help you keep a positive outlook. I've seen many crises in my career and a lot of them turned out to be great chances to change or add something new to my life. Maintaining a positive attitude is key in the world of investment.