In February Ziad Awad left a 20-year career in banking – in which he most recently held the position of managing director at Merrill Lynch in Dubai – to start up his own mergers and acquisitions advisory firm. This month, Canada’s Boardroom Metrics (BRM), which brings together seasoned consultants under one roof, announced him as their chief executive for the Middle East and North Africa region.
Why did you leave banking?
The temptation to be my own boss and follow a vision and build a company around my vision is what motivated me to make the move.
You founded Awad Advisory in March. You are now also the chief executive of BRM Arabia. Why did you take on this role too?
As I was going around to my [contacts] I felt the need from them for consulting services in which I was not an expert myself. I thought it would be so helpful to have access to a network of other experts in strategy, in corporate governance, in coaching – the areas I saw the need at board level of my customers. So I met Boardroom Metrics, which was already running a business model like this in Canada. I really liked the people and the business model and I decided to import it into the region. So the two businesses are extremely complementary – Awad Advisory is the [type of service] that Boardroom Metrics Arabia offers in the region.
How did you get to know about BRM?
We met through social media – a combination of Twitter and LinkedIn. I’ve always been very passionate about the internet and technology and social media, which I couldn’t really use professionally while working for the big banks. But now as an entrepreneur we can heavily use social media and leverage it for the promotion and the branding of our businesses. That’s one of the key services we offer to the consultants who join BRM and to our customers.
BRM was set up in Canada in 1994. Does the Middle East market differ from that of North America?
What we see in the region is an imbalance in the supply and demand equation for talent. We see much more demand and insufficient supply [here] because the economies are growing very fast; there is a lot of wealth generated by the oil surpluses and the populations are very young. In Canada, you have the opposite: you have a strong economy but you have a generation of baby boomers who are now entering into retirement who have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they are very keen to share [so that] other companies including those in the Middle East [can] benefit.
BRM offers senior independent consultants the chance to collaborate. Can you go into more detail about that?
As an independent consultant, it’s a bit lonely. In my experience we appreciate the opportunity to have a team of like-minded people to whom we can refer business or team up with to deliver a service that requires more than one senior person’s experience without going the full step of merging our businesses. This is a way of staying independent but having a team who can collaborate on a mission-by-mission basis. Second, as an independent consultant you get the [BRM] branding in addition to your personal brand. People generally have a great reputation but you want to have a brand which is even bigger than the person and this is what BRM brings: it brings a brand that is international and that is more than one person. We are part of a bigger team and we are proud of that because it brings a wider pool of resources to service our clients. Third, we [also] have a tremendous marketing machine which includes the website and social media.
It’s a pretty good start that BRM Arabia has signed up former Lebanese minister and central banker Nasser Saidi as consultant, right?
We have officially enrolled two additional consultants in addition to Awad Advisory. We have Dr Saidi and Rindala Beydoun [founder of Tribonian Law Advisors in the Middle East]. A fourth partner has signed up but it’s not official yet. We are focused on maintaining in the level of the team as being very high and having complementary skills. Our main focus is on establishing the brand and building the team and starting to gradually execute some engagements with our key clients with whom we are already in discussions.
What’s the reaction been to BRM Arabia?
We are very pleasantly surprised. Already we have significant level of query on both sides and we are currently working on three proposals from companies in the UAE for BRM consulting services.