Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Europe’s Woodbrook Group acquires Mondial Dubai

The three-decades-old financial planning and wealth management organisation was one of the first in the UAE

Sean Kelleher, chief executive of Mondial Dubai, speaking at the first Workers Incentives and End of Service Benefits Conference in February. Leslie Pableo / The National
Sean Kelleher, chief executive of Mondial Dubai, speaking at the first Workers Incentives and End of Service Benefits Conference in February. Leslie Pableo / The National

Cyprus-based Woodbrook Group acquired Mondial, one of the UAE’s oldest financial planning and wealth management organisations.

“Joining the Woodbrook Group strengthens our financial backbone, in turn enabling us to improve our range of client-driven services,” Mondial chief executive Sean Kelleher said in a statement on Thursday. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

Mr Kelleher, who has been with the company since 1989, will remain on as chief executive and the Mondial name will not change. He said the development marks the beginning of “an exciting new era” for the company.

“Woodbrook provides us with access to private equity money and with that private equity money we want to buy technology to improve the service to the retail sector,” Mr Kelleher told The National.

Woodbrook Group, which manages 1.2 billion euros in assets (Dh4.9bn), has offices in several European countries, including Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Switzerland. Its acquisition of Mondial is part of its international expansion plan and will be followed by further purchases in Europe and Latin America later this year.

The group, which is listed on the OTC (over-the-counter) market in the US, purchased a US company in December and is planning to list on the Nasdaq “when the timing is right,” Woodbrook Group chief executive Michael Doherty told The National in an email.

The acquisition of Mondial has been in the works for several months.

“It was always our intention to establish a presence in the Middle East, but we needed to find the right business,” Mr Doherty added. “Mondial, with its strong culture of compliance and innovative client-focused services, is a perfect fit for Woodbrook.”

Mondial is regulated by the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority, while Woodbrook is regulated by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commissioner (CySEC) and holds a license to operate in the European Union. Woodbrook is in the process of acquiring an insurance license in Dubai.

The contentious life insurance and investment industry has gone through an overhaul recently. Mondial organised the first Workers Incentives and End of Service Benefits conference in February under the patronage of the Federal Authority for Government Human Resources. Mr Kelleher said at the time that they were keen to work with FAHR on improving end-of-service benefits.

While Mondial is not a life insurance provider, Mr Kelleher said the company is exploring options to enter that space.

“To be a good financial planner, we need access to both insurance and investment,” he said.

Mondial started out in 1988 as Mondial Expatriate Services and was owned by Hansard International, a savings and investment products provider based in the British Isle of Man. Between late 1996 and early 1997, Mr Kelleher and partner Abdulrahman Al Awir purchased the company. Mondial reformed in line with regulations at that time, obtaining a license to provide banking, financial and investment consultations.

“We were the first independent financial adviser to get a UAE Central Bank license. Then we were the first to be moved across from the Central Bank to the Securities and Commodities Authority. And one of the first to get credited training membership for the CISI [the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment],” Mr Kelleher said.

“So we’ve always been leading edge … we’re now looking to bring more technology, more efficiency, and competitive pricing into the world of financial advice,” he added.

Updated: July 18, 2019 03:21 PM

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