Ten On The Weekend is a semi-weekly feature in IMI, the concept of which is simple: Each time, we ask the same ten questions of a different industry figure, letting readers get to know the interviewee on a more personal and informal level than they might in an ordinary business setting.
Our guest this weekend is Mimoun Assraoui of RIF Trust and Latitude.
How do you spend your weekends?
Like everyone, my weekends have drastically changed since the onset of COVID and even more so since the arrival of our daughter, Aida. Most of our spare time is spent with family and friends. When we are not in Dubai, we “staycation” around the neighboring Emirates. We like to head to Fujairah to escape the city and scuba dive, read, and enjoy the delicious Dibba oysters.
What are your top three business goals this year?
As a group, we emerged stronger from the COVID crisis and have ambitious targets set for this year. As your readers know, global uncertainty drives our business and there has certainly been a lot of uncertainty over the last 12 months! We will continue to expand our international network, which is already 80 staff and 17 offices strong, with emphasis on new markets in Africa, Asia, CIS countries, and even the Americas.
Our goal is to become the international leader of our industry and, with our current growth rate, we think we can achieve that status in very short order. We want to keep developing and winning mandates in our three market segments: B2C, B2B, and Government Advisory. We like to surround ourselves with like-minded colleagues and partners that help push our industry forward and bring innovative solutions to our esteemed clients.
What’s your biggest business concern right now?
One of my biggest concerns is what I call the “kamikaze players” that operate in our industry and are desperate for business and will say or do anything to retain a client and keep afloat. They are a real and present danger to our industry.
However, thankfully, most clients are smart and do their own due diligence before retaining a firm. In addition, the various CIUs are taking actions to limit such behavior, including blacklisting these kamikaze companies and implementing new laws and regulations.
Which book is on your night-stand right now?
One of the positive effects of COVID was finding more time to read. I read in French so I don’t forget the nuances of its rich vocabulary. I am currently reading Le Naufrage des Civilisations by Amin Maalouf, a French-Lebanese writer. I also like to read about politics and international affairs.
How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?
I myself am a product of immigration as my father immigrated from Morocco to France in the 1970s whereupon we joined him as a family in the ’80s.
From a business perspective, I left the banking world in 2013 to set up RIF Trust. We were one of the first and more ambitious players in the UAE who benefited from this growing industry. We of course merged in 2018 with Latitude to become a more significant international player. The rest is history and I am very proud of what we have achieved over the last 8 years.
What was your proudest moment as a service provider?
Well, there are many in our eight-year history, but to name a few:
- Receiving an award from the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis for the most files submitted during the Hurricane Relief Fund-period while, just a year previous, we were hardly processing any St Kitts and Nevis files at all.
- Our merger with Latitude Consultancy, which brought two forward-thinking and like-minded organizations together.
- We are very proud to be one of the very few companies licensed in all the programs we are offering.
- Being nominated last year to be the Trade Commissioner for Vanuatu in the UAE by the new Vanuatu Government.
Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?
There have been quite a few! I would say the success of Vanuatu as a program. It was virtually unknown three years ago and we were one of the first to promote it back then. Also, we have seen some positive developments in the Caribbean in terms of family pricing and the broadening of the definition of dependents. Lastly, the sudden decision to close the Cyprus citizenship program was unexpected so it was important for the industry to have Malta relaunch their version which we all know sets the platinum standard in due diligence for our industry.
If you could go back 10 years in time, what business decision would you change?
It would be to start our journey two years earlier, in 2011.
What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?
I have respect for the pioneers of our industry who showed us the way. We are lucky to have on our board some of the most respected and innovative veterans in our industry, including Eric Major and David Regueiro.
Our industry requires the support of governments and I admire the Prime Ministers who are backing their programs including Prime Ministers Roosevelt Skerrit and Timothy Harris, as well as the Heads of the CIUs, such as Les Khan and Emmanuel Nanthan. These gentlemen are always bringing innovative ideas to the table and pushing the CBI industry and other heads of CIU.
Finally, we could not do our job properly without the real estate developers collaborating with companies like ours and developing interesting projects for our clients to invest in.
If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?
I have my five year personal and professional goals, but typically approach things year by year and make the most of every situation. We saw that, with COVID, plans changed rapidly and we have adapted our strategy to come out of this crisis stronger both as individuals and as a group.
Our primary objective is to be the leader of our industry and a firm that acts as a magnet for talented people who want to join a family of dedicated and like-minded members.