Brokerage firm ADSS eyes 15% revenue growth on new technologies

September 17, 2018
Company to launch trading app for millennial investors this year with lower fees than its other services

ADS Securities (ADSS), a private Abu Dhabi-based financial services firm, plans annual revenue growth of 15-20 per cent in 2018, as it expands its services through automation and other technologies, its chief executive said.

“We are trying to maintain 15-20 per cent net revenue growth because we want to reinvest [the surplus] in new technologies and people,” Philippe Ghanem, who is also vice-chairman of parent ADSS Group, told The National in an interview.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and other data-driven technology “is like a huge wave coming over our industry and it has allowed a company like us to grow”, he added.

Greater interconnection between countries, and the software for machines to talk to each other faster than ever before, “has helped us understand what the market wants and build the right tools to enhance trading, allowing ADS to boost its revenues,” Mr Ghanem added.

ADSS provides foreign exchange, online trading, investment, wealth and asset management services for institutional, private and retail clients across the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Clients are serviced from ADSS’s offices in Abu Dhabi, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and Geneva.

The company, which trades as much as $19 billion per day, according to Mr Ghanem, plans to expand its brokerage services across a range of areas from commodities to cryptocurrencies, and new technologies are a key enabler of this. Later this year, ADSS will launch a trading app called Orex aimed at millennials, which represent a growing portion of the company’s investor base.

The mobile app will provide a cheaper, simpler and more accessible user experience than ADSS’ other trading platforms, and is part of the company’s drive to remain relevant as technology casts the role of intermediary parties, such as brokers, in doubt. Mr Ghanem declined to reveal the level of fees for the new app as they are still being finalised.

Financial services, and other industries, are being disrupted by the development of advanced technologies including automation, which is expected to displace 32 per cent of jobs globally by 2030, according to a report by consultancy McKinsey & Company in March. In the Middle East, 45 per cent of existing jobs could be automated today, affecting more than 20 million full-time employees and $366.6 billion of wage income, the report said.

Regional financial institutions have started preparing for change, with Dubai’s Mashreq Bank telling The National last September the lender planned to shed 10 per cent of its 4,000-strong workforce in the ensuing 12 months as investments in AI and other technologies reduce its dependence on human resources.

Mr Ghanem said ADSS had more than 300 employees two years ago and that number has reduced since then because of technology. “It’s taking over – where you once had 20-30 people for one platform, you now have just 10 people,” he said. The number has not depleted solely because of redundancies, he added.

“We have given many people the opportunity to re-train in a new area of specialism because the field they were in is no longer the field of the future.” At the same time, ADSS is investing in different types of skills and people, for example data miners, for which there is high demand.

Cryptocurrencies, which have been criticised by some analysts because of extreme market volatility, are an exciting opportunity for ADSS and it has already begun trading in this area. “The currencies themselves are not what’s important, but the underlying technology, blockchain, will be a success,” Mr Ghanem said.

In terms of markets, Saudi Arabia is another growth opportunity because of its size and the extensive reforms its capital markets are undergoing, he added. ADSS launched a Saudi exchange-traded fund (ETF) in May through its ADS Investments Solutions unit, which is to be listed on the Abu Dhabi stock exchange. It followed the FTSE Russell Saudi Arabia index that ADSS developed the previous year, designed to minimise the volatility of the FTSE Saudi Arabia All Cap Index.

thenational