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Faux glamour no doubt, but awards ceremonies are a no-brainer for hacks

At the Zawya Funds Awards Ceremonies held in Dubai last week, there was something irresistible about the slightly faux glamour, instant celebrity and congratulation.

We can't get enough of awards ceremonies, it seems. From the Oscars to the Zawya Funds Awards Ceremonies (held in Dubai last week), there is something irresistible about their slightly faux glamour, instant celebrity and congratulation.

Add in the fact that it's usually a night out on the expense account, or better still, somebody else's expense account, and it looks a no-brainer.

It's not a question of whether or not to accept, it's a question of: black tie or lounge suit?

For a journalist, the attraction is increased by the fact that these events are great for networking. You meet people in relaxed, out-of-office hours mode, often people who wouldn't give you the time of day for a formal interview or off-the-record chat.

It's difficult for even the most elusive captain of industry to ignore you over a dinner table, and you are often privy to conversations between hugely important people in the company of their powerful peers. Indiscretions, and sometimes the truth, flow along with the hospitality.

Off guard, off the cuff but not always off the record.

Even the most objective, truth-hungry hack must take care not to be sucked into the bonhomie, as I discovered at an event. The Ritz-Carlton hotel in DIFC, where the event was held, is a coming place, I reckon. Open for a couple of years, it had a slow start, but now the Dubai economy and markets are back it really has taken off.

The post-awards bar crowd was as cosmopolitan and glamorous as any pre-crisis gathering.

But I run ahead. We were there to celebrate the best of the Middle East's multibillion-dollar asset management industry, which is also back in boom mode, judging by the mood around the tables.

Some of the awards seem to have been tailor-made for the recipients, such as the Best Morocco Money Market Fund (can't be too much competition there) or the Best Tunisian Balanced Fund (again, something of a niche market, and anyway aren't they all supposed to be balanced?).

Demonstrating the pan-Middle East and North Africa nature of the event, there were substantial contingents from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and most other parts of the region.

The Big One, as suavely announced by the radio presenter Richard Dean, was the Best Asset Manager 2012 and that went to EFG Hermes, which seemed a popular winner from the level of applause.

But the Big One as far as my table was concerned was the race for the title of Most Compelling Personality of the Year.

Sitting right there beside me were the two Dubai legends regarded as leading contenders for the title: Nigel Sillitoe, the chief executive of the Insight Discovery research firm; and Farah Foustok, the CEO of ING Asset Management in the region.

As Mr Dean read out the list, the tension was palpable; when he drew a breathy pause before announcing the winning name, it was almost unbearable.

Then came the announcement: "And the winner is Farah " The rest was drowned in applause.

Congratulations to her, I must say. On the night, the best woman won, although I did feel just a little sorry for Nigel. He was putting on a brave face, but you could see he had invested a lot of himself in the compellingness stakes. He slipped off quietly from the hubbub.

Later, I wondered if he might want to celebrate the achievement of getting so close to the glittering prize, and called his mobile.

"I'm on the Metro going home," he said glumly. Ah well, there's always next year Nigel.


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