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Thursday, 29 July 2021

My Morning Routine: Hany Fekry, regional president and managing director for Network International Egypt

Hany Fekry, regional president and managing director for Network International Egypt: Each week, my Morning 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 Hany Fekry (LinkedIn), regional president and managing director for Network International Egypt.

Edited excerpts from our conversation:

My name is Hany Fekry, I’m the regional president and managing director for Network International Egypt. I’ve been with Network since 2006 and before that I worked at several multinational corporations including Allianz and Al Ahram Beverages Company. Right now I'm responsible for business development in north and sub-Saharan Africa for the company.

Network International is a digital payments processing business with a presence in over 50 countries. We provide all forms of payment processing for companies except cash. This includes everything from e-commerce to POS, credit card processing and digital wallets. In places like Dubai and Jordan, we’re also acquirers and in South Africa we have a major consumer finance business. In Egypt we manage a considerable portion of the POS networks and ATMs for banks, where we also process the majority of debit, credit and prepaid cards. Our payment processing business is effectively a security business. We make sure that when customers pay using their credit cards online or in person that those transactions remain safe.

As regional president of the company I'm in charge of driving business in north and sub-Saharan Africa. This means my responsibilities include keeping the business growing every year and dominating the payments space across the region. Our goal is to maintain the number position as a payments provider in the region.

Egypt and Nigeria are two of the fastest growing economies for digital payments globally. I think Egypt is now a role model for the rest of Africa. Everyone is paying attention to what's happening here. The number of new fintech startups and digital banks popping up is very promising.

Work really accelerated for us during the pandemic. The high number of online payments companies and e-commerce traffic skyrocketed and we’re really happy to be seeing things take off in this direction. It ended up growing the processing and payments industry to three to four times its pre-covid size.

A lot of new businesses entered the market over the past year in response to new consumer behavior. From a business perspective we had the right data centers and internal infrastructure to be able to absorb these changes.

We’re now offering a min USD 1 mn waiver of our fees to startups and the chance to walk away from any contract within the first two years of signing without any penalty. We’re doing this to help support budding entrepreneurs make decisions without worrying about being tied to large commitments.

We’re looking to build confidence. Our goal is to educate the market about digital payments and fintech. We try to support up and coming companies because If there is any mistrust developed by problems associated with e-payments, we all have a lot to lose. So we’re trying really hard to help these businesses over the next five to six years until the market reaches a point of maturity.

Internally, when covid broke out we were 100% prepared. As a company that's lived through the 2011 revolution and the nationwide curfews that followed we started our own WFH experiments about a decade ago. The infrastructure has been there ever since. Maintaining this infrastructure is very expensive but we keep it in place because I believe it's important to stay prepared. We had no requirement for any of our 439 employees in Cairo to be at the office as of March of 2020. We’ve since resumed going back to the office gradually and earlier this month brought up our capacity to 70% in-person work. We’re also working on recruiting about 70 new employees.

I think there's some value to being in an office space. For one, employees aren’t stuck between the four walls of their home. I think communication between employees is faster and it gives people more confidence while they are working. Psychologically and socially I think that physical interaction is very beneficial..

I sleep at 10 pm and wake up at around 6 am every day. I spend the first 30 minutes of my day drinking coffee and meditating. From 6:30 – 7:30 am I do Crossfit or go for a run. I'm usually in the office at 9 am and spend the first 30 minutes of my day going through the news and reading the morning edition of Enterprise down to the T. It's the most important source of information for me every morning. I have three slots per day for email, each one about 45 minutes long. In between emails I'm usually on conference calls or in meetings. I take three 15 minute breaks a day after every email slot, where I grab some coffee and strike up a conversation with someone at the office. I try as hard as I can to end my day by 6 pm. Once I'm home I spend time with my wife and kids. We usually cook dinner together or watch a movie with some popcorn.

I try to maintain this routine because three weeks out of every month I'm on business trips. My travels came to a halt for a six-month period between March and November, which was the first time in 22 years I got to spend a full six months in Cairo without leaving the country. But things have since returned to their usual schedule, however.

My weekends are always spent here, no matter where I am. Even if I'm on a two-week trip to Lagos, I'll fly back to Egypt at the weekend to see my family before resuming the rest of my trip. It's very important for me to see them as much as I can. Weekends are usually spent somewhere by the Red Sea between El Gouna and Ras Sudr.

I read just about anything I can get my hands on. One of the best books for anyone who’s interested in startups is How the Mighty Fall by Jim Collins. It talks about how large companies, after growing past a certain point, are susceptible to failure. I think it's important to pay some attention to preserving your company once you’ve gotten it off the ground. I also highly recommend reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, which I pick up at least once a year. It's essential reading for anyone who’s really looking to improve their interactions with other people. In terms of fiction I read a lot of Youssef El Guindy, Hisham El Kheshen and Essam Youssef’s work, among many others.

I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m on a plane, I really enjoy Enterprise’s Making It and Wondery’s Business Wars. The Harvard Business Review also has some good shows.

My first manager, Hakam Marwan Kanafani, once told me “you need to spend 60% of your time on a single endeavour and 40% of your time on networking,” which is invaluable advice for achieving success.

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