Fady Sleiman, CIO, Waha Capital, does not see areas of weakness. Instead, he prefers to see opportunities. When he had the opportunity to streamline the technology infrastructure in the office, he and his team went all in.
Waha Capital is one of the largest investment firms in the region. Its principle investments and co-investment interests span a wealth of sectors, including aircraft leasing, financial services, healthcare, offshore oil and gas services and infrastructure. If it is happening in Abu Dhabi or the Emirates, chances are, Waha Capital is involved.
The company also has a strong showing in capital markets through its own credit portfolio. Recently Waha Capital is investing in high-quality light industrial real estate through the ALMARKAZ project in Abu Dhabi.
Established in 1997 under the name “Oasis International Leasing Company PJSC”, Waha Capital has grown significantly in the past two decades. Initially, the company was a leasing company of high-value assets, such as aircraft, ships and infrastructure. Over the last five years, the company has turned into an investment company, deploying its regional experience and investment expertise to add value through organic growth opportunities and co-investment partnerships.
In 2007, the company went through its first major change, opting for the moniker “Waha Capital.” In 2010 the newly named Waha Capital took on another shift, exchanging the majority of its aircraft assets for a 20 percent stake in the New York-listed AerCap Holdings NV.
To support its growth and change in the market, Waha Capital knew it would not only have to change their business, but change the way they were doing business as well. In 2014, Fady Sleiman came to the company as Waha Capital’s new CIO. The company, under his leadership, undertook a comprehensive assessment of its information technology needs across the group. “We needed to assess the opportunities to grow and adapt. We wanted to use technology to drive business transformation,” says Sleiman. “Once I identified where we were, we then needed to identify what opportunities we had to improve.”
As it happened, Waha Capital had many areas that they wanted to optimise to support and drive business. They decided that the ERP system needed to be completely overhauled to match the needs of their principle investments. “We looked at going back to basics,” says Sleiman, “the foundation needs to be sound, and we need to build upon that.”
Moving beyond front-facing technology, Sleiman realised that streamlining the back office operations would enable the staff of Waha Capital to perform their duties at the highest level. “We have a small staff but have high-calibre individuals here,” says Sleiman. “Employee experience is key.”
To meet the demands of the staff, the IT department automated payroll and other functions of the HR department. They began to take telephony to a new level as well. “It isn’t just telephony anymore,” says Sleiman, “we want the whole picture – a true collaborative experience.” As such, with the help of Cisco, they have installed the most effective and useful tools in collaboration, including video conferencing solutions.
Waha Capital had the bandwidth to take on a project that would change the way the company does business. “One of our most interesting updates has been the automation of the portfolio management that we have for our trading platform on equity and fixed income,” says Sleiman. The company opted to partner with SunGuard to implement Hedge 360 – a private cloud solution. Waha Capital was looking for a complete transformation across their many modules – trading, accounting and finance and risk.
Prior to the update, Waha Capital’s traders were still doing things manually, using complicated Excel sheets to generate reports. “We wanted more transparency, quicker reporting processes and less segmentation between divisions,” says Sleiman. With these goals in mind Waha Capital took on the project in July 2014. As the new system was rolled out, the IT department needed to not only implement the solution, but ensure all end-users were on board. “There was some expected resistance,” recalls Sleiman, “but as users began to understand the time savings and benefits of the system, it was an easy transition.” What helped, he says, was working with capital market director to bring in support and understanding.
SunGuard’s solution is the first of its kind in the region. “Many companies may have part of the system automated, but not end-to-end,” says Sleiman. “We, on the other hand, have three very complicated modules all automated through one vendor.”
The new system will be going live this month, and the results are already apparent. The new system will affect the 20 some traders on the floor, freeing them up to concentrate on developing the core business. Post implementation support from the vendor has also been key. “SunGuard has provided training and support throughout. With safety nets on both sides of the partnership, the project has been a success.”
Partnership is the key phrase for Sleiman. “We need to have a partnership with vendors – a relationship that will last even after the implementation is complete,” he says. Sunguard has provided that kind of partnership, with post implementation support and training. Now with automated reporting, Waha Capital can concentrate on the business of doing business.