How MENA's largest broker EFG Hermes is coping with remote working

Egypt-based investment bank, which operates across four continents, started working remotely from mid-March 2020

  
An Egyptian man walks past a branch of the EFG Hermes investment bank in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose.

An Egyptian man walks past a branch of the EFG Hermes investment bank in Cairo, Egypt May 29, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

EFG Hermes, Middle East and North Africa's (MENA) largest brokerage house by market share, has most of its employees across the world working from home as the coronavirus pandemic forces businesses to re-imagine workplaces.

The Egypt-based investment bank, which operates across four continents, started working remotely from mid-March 2020.

Having successfully overcome the challenges of telecommuting, and with dealers logging into trading systems from remote locations to put through client orders and execute transactions, the company confirmed to Zawya that seamless working from home is possible, but it may not be a permanent arrangement in the future.

On whether EFG Hermes will make working from home more permanent, Mohamed El Wakeel, Group Chief Operating Officer, said:

“What we all have gone through has proven that working from home is possible. However, this is a topic for further discussion and study by the firm's top management.”

EFG Hermes and its subsidiaries employ more than 5600 people. According to El Wakeel, 100 percent of its employees work from home in the UAE, Pakistan, Jordan, KSA, Kenya, Nigeria, UK, USA, Bangladesh, Oman and Kuwait.

In its main head office in Egypt, majority of the employees work from home and only a number of people who manage the facility go to office on a rotational basis.

Expanding business

EFG Hermes ranks first in brokerage market share on the Egyptian market, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Nasdaq Dubai and Kenya for the month of April. It was also ranked first on the Saudi market among foreign brokers.

The company could expand its business during this difficult environment.

“On a holistic level across markets in which we operate, we were able to grow our market share during the past three months,” El Wakeel said, adding, “Some markets have witnessed increased client activity, while other markets have seen new clients entering to take advantage of slow market conditions to seek future gains.”

The group’s brokerage revenue fell to 213 million Egyptian pounds in Q1 2020, down from 288 million Egyptian pounds in Q1 2019.

Volatility in MENA markets has provided opportunities for the bank’s digital channels.

"Our online trading platforms have seen an increase of 10 percent in traffic after mid-March, when the COVID-19 crisis started," El Wakeel said.

Uncertainty triggered by the outbreak of the coronavirus has been weighing on investor sentiment worldwide and in the region. 

In addition to that, MENA markets have seen heightened volatility after a bearish outlook for oil prices emerged in March, when OPEC failed to strike a deal with its allies, led by Russia, on oil production cuts.

OPEC+ then agreed in April to cut their output by 9.7 million barrels per day (bpd) for May-June. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait also announced additional cuts in May.

Business challenges

Its predominantenly digital business model has held EFG Hermes in good stead. However, it is encountering the challenge of obtaining all necessary regulatory approvals to enable remote access to its trading screens.

"With that being said, all regulators in the MENA region and beyond have been extremely cooperative in accommodating our requests and inquiries," El Wakeel said.

Zawya has learnt that one of the many technology challenges faced by companies in the banking sector is the bandwidth issue. Lenders had to invest in increasing their bandwidth to accommodate a large number of employees working from home. (Read more here)

El Wakeel believes that COVID-19 is a learning experience for companies across different sectors, not just financial services or investment banks.

“Investing in the right talents/IT infrastructure/Tools will be key to overcoming any similar future challenges,” he said.

(Reporting by Gerard Aoun; editing by Seban Scaria)

(gerard.aoun@refinitiv.com)

#EFG Hermes #COVID-19 #Markets #Middle East

Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. The content does not provide tax, legal or investment advice or opinion regarding the suitability, value or profitability of any particular security, portfolio or investment strategy. Read our full disclaimer policy here

© ZAWYA 2020

More From Equities