More than US$4 trillion in investor wealth gathered to discuss ‘Investing in a New Age’ in Dubai recently at Anthony Ritossa’s 8th Global Family Office Investment Summit. Influential leading families from around the world descended on the city for the invite-only event, which saw a record-breaking number of global business deals funded.

In keeping with the Ritossa tradition, more than 450 elite family offices, prominent business owners, sheikhs, royal families, private investment companies and industry professionals from across the Middle East and around the globe convened at the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach under the High Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum.

The 100-plus speakers included influential UAE leaders, European royalty, award-winning global fund managers, cryptocurrency and blockchain experts, global peace leaders and many of the world’s most important families, who closed the event with a standing ovation.

What makes this event so special? It’s a global gathering for like-minded leaders, says Anthony Ritossa, Chairman of Ritossa Family Office, a family business dating back 600 years to the Venetian Empire in Europe. “Being part of a family office myself, understanding what is important to families and corporations, and including this in the conference agenda, creates a unique environment and a lovely ambiance.

“It’s a passion project of mine, it’s been a great journey. I love hearing the stories that come out of these events. It’s really interesting bringing wonderful people together. It’s an honour to have the support of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Al Maktoum, and the CEO to his private office, Mohamed Al Ali – I am very grateful for this.”

The CEO Magazine sat down with a selection of leaders at the exclusive event to share with you their vision, what matters to them in business and how they are investing in a new age.

Hadi Al Alawi, Chairman & CEO, Al Hayat Group, Kingdom of Bahrain

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

A unique business model

“The beauty with us here in the six Gulf Cooperation Countries – Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – is that we are all very close; we meet, we work together, and you will find that most families share the same businesses, and represent the same international companies – 80% of the businesses in the Gulf are family owned.”

Life is caring and sharing

“One of the five pillars of Islam, zakat, or charity, is a religious obligation for all Muslims who meet the necessary criteria of wealth. It is a mandatory charitable contribution, and our tradition is that 20% of what we earn must go to charity. Money can buy anything tangible, but it will not buy you credibility, honesty, love and loyalty; these you need to develop with the relationships you build, which can in turn bring you more wealth than the money you earn.”

Nabil Nazer, CIO, Al Sulaiman Group, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

A rich family legacy

“The Al Sulaiman family has a very old and rich history in Saudi Arabia, the patriarch of the family was the first and sole Minister of Saudi Arabia alongside the founding King. Our Chairman, Dr Ghassan Ahmed Al Sulaiman, is pioneering and entrepreneurial in his approach. Philanthropy is a core value for the family, as is doing business in a transparent, trustworthy and reputable manner. For example, we kick-started the first accelerator in Saudi Arabia around six years ago with a mission to support the entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

Having fun in Saudi

“Since the launch of Vision 2030, it is impressive to see so much being achieved. The entire economy has become digitalised, government transactions are becoming electronic, and this facilitates the ease of doing business. I cannot overstress the massive leaps we have taken in Saudi especially in the entertainment space. There is no longer the need to travel to have fun – you can have fun with your family in Saudi.”

Faris M Al Tahtamooni, Associate Director, International Ventures, The Private Office of HH Sheikh Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, UAE

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Doing business in the UAE

“Start-ups do not need our money; they need our support, our knowledge of the market, our cultural background and our network to support them. Our model – ‘I’ll hold your hand, and I’ll teach you how the market works’ – eventually brought us a lot of companies, and with our support they are churning the revenues they want, and reaching the goals they aspire to.”

A supporting hand

“We talk to the governments first, we look at their initiatives, at their budgets. We find out what they are thinking, what they want to bid for and, based on that, we will get the partners to tick those boxes. We act as a supporting hand, allying with companies that can bring added value to the government, to the economy of Dubai, and to the growth of our market.”

Abhishek Sharma, CEO & Founder, Foundation Holdings, UAE and India

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

A strong foundation

“The firm’s vision is building sustainable, industry-defining companies. We focus on healthcare education in India and the GCC. We have created a firm that investors can put their trust in.”

Creating unique post-deal client value

“There has recently been more cautious growth in our region, and our investors and family offices have a similar approach. They would like risk-adjusted returns, where capital is preserved, yet there is an opportunity to make good returns. How we differentiate ourselves is with the post-deal. We create value by improving revenue and cost base, ultimately leading to better investment returns and enhancing shareholder value.”

Giambattista Atzeni, Senior Director, BNY Mellon Wealth Management, UAE

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Investing in human capital and infrastructure

“An investment is just a tool. There are a lot of wonderful investments in any economic cycle. How relevant that tool is for that family is something that is very important to understand. If there is one investment I would suggest, at any point in time, it is to invest in the family’s infrastructure: the way the family makes decisions, the way the family identifies objectives for family members, the way the family identifies members within or outside the family who are going to cater to the investments of the family, and how to cultivate the intellectual human capital. That is the investment that you are never going to have enough of, it will enable you to identify a methodology to make those educated investment decisions.”

“If there is one investment I would suggest, at any point in time, it is to invest in the family’s infrastructure.” – Giambattista Atzeni

Mehsan Arshad, CEO, Mams Infra Projects, MAMS Holdings Group, UAE

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Focused on social services

“Ten years ago, when I finished my master’s degree, I was given offered a job buying luxury real estate, but I was not interested. Instead, I wanted to invest in social services, bringing improvement to the society with returns to the stakeholders. We started with the concept of affordable homes, upgrading our expertise to urban smart homes with cutting-edge technology. We don’t want to gain profit for ourselves alone; instead, we want to share our profit with the end users. We are able to keep our costs down due to the sheer quantity of homes we build.”

Sheila B Driscoll, Managing Director, Sisters First Productions, President & Co-Founder, The Billionaire Foundation, US

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Sisters First Funds

“Sisters First Productions is an entertainment production and asset management company focused on the creation and financing of women-led, inspirational, original film, television and theatre content. I have reached out to the most powerful women I know in these three fields, and the funds will grant them money for new projects, new content and new plays.”

The importance of having a mentor

“Education is the key. I will give you the analogy of a money mountain. Say you are given a shovel, a treasure map and a pickup truck, and someone tells you to get in and drive to money mountain. But you don’t know where to go, where to stop, and where to dig. Let’s say that your mentor then gets into the truck with you, drives you to money mountain and tells you where to stop and where to dig, thus economising time and eliminating guesswork. Now you are working with someone who has been there, done that, and who has that experience to share with you and take you to the next level. When you get to the top, send the elevator back down – that is what I want to do for younger women.”

”When you get to the top, send the elevator back down.” – Sheila B Driscoll

Candice Beaumont, CIO, L Investments Family Office, US and UAE

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Leaving a legacy for the next generation

“The World Economic Forum’s mission is to improve the state of the world. It’s important that the children of the family offices that I work for take that mission to do good for society and are able to leave a legacy that is remembered. Former US vice president Al Gore said recently that 30% of animal species have died in the past 30 years as we industrialise. You have to be current with the problems facing the next generation. It is important to instil the right values and the right critical thinking in our children. When they look at the world and the world changes, they should be equipped with the decision-making tools and leave a legacy for their own children.”

Wendy Craft, Chief of Staff, Fulcrum Equities SFO, USA

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Securing a family legacy the moment you are born

“Our vision is to replicate what the Todd Family is doing in New Zealand, where the family office life starts the moment a new family member is born, with a ‘welcome to the family’ letter. At age five, they receive their second letter: ‘It is time to think about other children who are not as fortunate as you, please come in with your cousins and we are going to show you some of the options where you can help.’ They send a letter to the parents: ‘Start talking about philanthropy.’ The family office guides them so that at the age of 22 they are well versed in family office life. Our President Kent Swig is interested in replicating this model, it’s an excellent way to keep the family and its wealth together.”

Sinjin David Jung, Managing Director, IBMR.IO International Blockchain Monetary Reserve & ARCC Asia, Reserve Currency Coin, Singapore

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Establishing a 40-year monetary plan

“For the past couple of years, I have been focusing on my passion project: financial inclusion in decentralised economies through cryptocurrencies. This social impact project is my road to redemption, with all the knowledge that I have acquired I really want to do something ethical and good. My expertise is dealing with emerging markets, but the average person has not yet benefited from that growth.”

Creating a network for structural financial inclusion

“I launched the International Blockchain Monetary Reserve, which I envision to one day be the independent IMF of crypto and digital currencies worldwide. Our first region is South-East Asia, and I hope to launch the largest micro asset network, essentially allowing the urban working poor to be part of a decentralised information network, to report on government corruption and general problems in the community.”

Kingsley Advani, Founder, Chainfund Capital, US

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Our lead strategy is early stage venture

“We are really seeing a shift from old to new finance, driven by consumers demanding lower costs, faster payments and more financial inclusion. We have a huge opportunity to back these entrepreneurs that are creating more efficient business models in finance. We invest in entrepreneurs based in Asia, the US and the GCC, who are able to build global businesses, and provide financial technology to the world including developing nations.”

Alan Knitowski, CEO, Phunware Inc and PhunCoin, US

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Delivering institutional acceptable blockchain and cryptocurrency

“What we are building is fairly ambitious: We are trying to connect brands to consumers without untrustworthy intermediaries. Moving forward, you are going to be paid to share your data, instead of being exploited. We don’t believe there is a future where the consumer is not in charge, where they are not respected and protected.”

Shafin Diamond Tejani, Alchemist, Victory Square Technologies, Canada

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

Emerging technology disruption

“Our model and IP is our process, and that process starts with us identifying a large customer in a large market, identifying a pinpoint for that customer, so that they can adapt to these new emerging technologies. During the first dotcom bubble, there were a lot of famous global brands that didn’t adapt and later died. We work with large companies to help them adapt and learn from past mistakes.”

Will Poole, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, Unitus Ventures, and Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, Partner, Unitus Ventures, India and US

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

How to be resilient

“Where should you put your money right now? A problem that every CIO is worried about is the economic downturn. Impact strategy is an excellent hedge against that recession, simply because private domestic consumption continues even if the economy goes down. If you are investing in companies that are serving those needs, then you are certainly much more resilient against an economic crisis.”

Babak Pasdar, CEO, Acreto, US

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

More than just the bad guys on your street

“Cybersecurity is just as important as physical security. Traditionally you just had to worry about the bad guys on your street, but with the Internet of Things, you have to worry about the bad guys everywhere in the world.”

Elina Nizar, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Cap-Connect, an independent consultancy, UK

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

An increased appetite for KSA, a land of opportunity

“Saudi Arabia is a huge market, its population is incredibly refined, a lot of people have been privately educated abroad, and they are all moving back. Most of them (both males and females) are employed – from the Uber driver all the way to the partner of a large law firm. We analyse the stock market in the country and, despite recent hiccups, it is up by 11%. All in all, we see a lot of opportunities in the region. Twenty years ago, Saudi Arabia started with five universities; today, there are 45, and they are all very well equipped, with Western education methodologies, and of a high calibre. You see the wealth of their education when you speak to whoever is from Saudi, their sophistication is apparent.”

HE Ms Sania A Ansari, Chair, Ansari Group Ltd. Consultant for the Royal Family, UAE

Insights from the world’s largest gathering of family wealth

A positive mind can achieve a lot

“I practise gratitude daily, it keeps me humble and in balance. I also never give up. Anything is possible in this world as long as you are willing to put effort into it. If you stick to a goal then you will be successful. In my business, my relationships are based on lifelong collaborations with my clients. Knowing my clients and ensuring that our vision and values are aligned is important.”

Interviews: Vanessa Eriksson
Photographer: Cyril Bailleul
Film Director: Olivier Ronot