Rules have always been a double-edged sword. There are rules we love and rules we love to hate; rules that demand compliance and rules that are a gentle appeal to our common sense; rules that are petty and infuriating – and rules that are pivotal to social order and a civilized society.
But what most rules have in common is that they are imposed on us by others. Few ordinary individuals, businesses or organizations willingly volunteer to be bound by a set of rules of their own making. But Al Ghurair Investment is no ordinary organization.
That’s why it has committed itself to standards of business practice way beyond what is expected of it as an independent family-owned entity in the Gulf. In short, AGI has implemented the strict standards of Corporate Governance demanded of publicly-listed companies in global industry and commerce.
Operating in that arena for more than 30 years has been Adil Toubia, appointed Group Chief Executive Officer of Al Ghurair Investment in mid-2014 as part of a planned leadership transition. He brought to AGI a diverse mix of business and investment expertise across multiple sectors. And he also brought a deep personal commitment to Corporate Governance.
This was deemed vital by Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, Chairman of Al Ghurair Investment, who has long campaigned for stricter corporate governance among Gulf family businesses. In October 2015 he renewed that appeal as Chairman of the Gulf Family Business Council (GFBC). A study by the Council of GCC family-owned businesses showed that only 33% had fully implemented governance systems.
Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair pointed out that the majority of family business owners in the GCC are relatively young – between 40 and 60 years old – and facing the critical juncture of transition of leadership from the first to second, or second to third, generations. One major risk during this transition was for large family businesses to become fragmented.
Mr. Al Ghurair argues that fully-implemented systems of governance are essential to smooth leadership transition. The Gulf Family Business Council Study showed that while 66% of participating businesses had started to put the building blocks in place, only half that number had fully implemented the governance systems. The study recommends that the ‘rules of the game’ should be communicated early to the next generation to ensure effective succession planning.
The GFBC Study, undertaken in collaboration with McKinsey & Company, revealed that family-owned businesses such as Al Ghurair Investment make up 75 per cent of the GCC private sector economy, collectively generating $100 billion in annual revenues. Putting corporate governance structures in place was vital, said the study – and companies lagging behind could put their very existence at risk.
In contrast, companies like AGI believe that developing a cohesive approach towards corporate governance not only increases the credibility of Gulf family businesses in the global marketplace, but also enhances performance, drives synergies within the group and maximizes shareholder value.
Strict governance on a par with any publicly-listed company is central to Al Ghurair Investment’s entire business philosophy. The introduction of non–family members on to the board was a big leap forward in the company’s pivotal corporate governance journey.
Trust, reliability and straight dealing have characterized the business conduct of Al Ghurair since its inception more than half a century ago. The implementation of modern day corporate governance procedures adds greater accountability and transparency – and serves to further strengthen our time-honored values.