The client-advisor relationship is exactly that: a relationship. As with any good relationship, it is all about balance. The advisor’s primary concern is to service clients and keep them happy. But delivering successful outcomes can come in many forms. Executing client instructions must be weighed against the need to fulfil the advisory obligation of acting in the client’s best interests.
Sometimes the best client advice is a simple affirmation that, having conducted the necessary due diligence, the client’s plan or idea is a good one; proceed as planned. Other times a change of tack, or a menu of alternative options, must be presented.
The best advisors will look past a decision and seek to uncover the underlying objective or motivation, before assessing the best route forward. Sometimes, the client must be challenged. Trust is therefore essential. To breed this trust, understanding, innovation and personality must be in the advisory toolkit.
Dr. Khalid Maniar, managing partner at Crowe Mak in the UAE, explains how the nature of this relationship was brought to the fore when his client, Fahad Sattar Dero, the owner of Sweet Homes Real Estate, approached him with plans to launch a laundry business in the UAE.
Maniar knew he could help. But first, he had some questions. He wanted to understand the motivation, the desired outcome, and the Dero’s ability to deliver. Every budding novelist, screenwriter or playwright has heard the advice “write about what you know”;the same principle was employed here.
“My first piece of advice is always to ask whether a decision is underpinned by a core competence. A core competence is vital if you want to be the first, or the best,” says Maniar.
The client had no expertise or market knowledge related to the laundry business, but he did hold a civil engineering qualification.
“Every day in the UAE, we see failures. So I told him ‘if you want to penetrate the market, here, you need to pivot in your approach’. With stiff competition, we needed to focus on core competence.”
If an idea plays to the decision-maker’s strengths and, ideally, aligns with their interests, the chances of success skyrocket. Again, balance comes into play, usually between client passion and advisor pragmatism.
The client’s goal or idea must be combined with the advisor’s nuanced approach, knowledge of the broader market or landscape, and appreciation of the hurdles that will arise along the way. The first cannot work without the others. Absent passion, the idea will never take off. Absent pragmatism, the idea will fly headlong into unanticipated obstacles.
Maniar used his knowledge of growth opportunities in the region, as well as his network of contacts, to recommend a new approach that would better leverage the client’s qualifications. He knew that His Highness Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, the ruler of Ajman was looking to allocate land in the emirate for commercial development and recommended that the client move away from the laundry idea and seek a conversation with Sheikh Humaid.
Then came the next challenge. Having secured an appointment, it became clear that the client did not have sufficient capital to meet Sheikh Humaid’s investment expectations. As a show of faith, the client told His Highness that he was ready to invest all the capital he had.
“A positive impression on an inter-personal level, along with the display of confidence, commitment and gesture of faith all came together to reach a compromise solution,” says Maniar.
Sheikh Humaid was impressed and he agreed to allocate land. The bond between the two figures grew as a result of this display of willingness and mutual commitment. The level of trust outweighed the perceived risk.
Agreement was reached that, upon receipt of money from subsequent investors, the client would complete his payment to Sheikh Humaid. From here, things took off. Blueprints were drawn up, customers were attracted and deposits started rolling in.
Sweet Homes was a pioneer in developing such real estate properties in Ajman at the time. The pledge made to Sheikh Humaid was quickly delivered upon and, fast-forward to today, 10 more plots have been awarded in the emirate.
An empire has been built upon this trust and track record of integrity and delivering on promises.
In relatively tough times for the real estate sector, Sweet Homes has managed to remain successful. It has diversified its approach, creating new companies focused on a range of offers, from engineering consultancy, building materials supply and planning management through to media and communications. This has helped to future-proof the business.
“The new launches were a natural byproduct of success, and in turn have generated growth in tougher economic conditions,” says Maniar. “Investment opportunities have been prolonged by innovation and by continually offering added value.”
An eye-catching innovation that further cements the company’s unique selling point is also relationship-centric: a partnership with the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. By virtue of this relationship, customers of Sweet Homes can obtain citizenship-through-investment. This point of differentiation has shown customers that there is additional value in investing, while the Government of Antigua does its own due diligence on all citizenship engagements, ensuring the collaboration is a win-win for all involved.