Sleem Hasan: The Father of Startups on His Risk-Taking Approach to Life
People don’t have to believe in you for you to succeed. Just work hard, and when you do succeed, they will definitely believe in you.
Sleem Hasan is a Financial Entrepreneur with a truly global background. Born in Fiji of Pakistani parentage, raised in Nigeria, Oxbridge educated, worked with the Japanese at Nikko, and now resident in Dubai, UAE. Sleem founded Hasan Financial Corporation in 1996, an independent FCA regulated buy and sell side advisory firm focusing on the Japanese Markets based in the UK.
Sleem is married with 2 daughters and is resident in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Sleem founded Privity in 2004, an early stage venture-focused firm in Dubai.
Transcript of the episode:
*this transcript is generated automatically*
Alex Romanovich (00:00):
Hi, this is Alex Romanovich, and welcome to GlobalEdgeTalk. Today we have a wonderful guest by the name of Sleem Hasan. Hello, Sleem.
Sleem Hasan (00:09):
Alex Romanovich (00:10):
We’re going to talk about his amazing journey to Dubai, but first, let me make a very quick introduction. Sleem is the CEO and founder of Privity, which is an independent Dubai based advisory and investment firm. It was founded in 2004. Prior to that, he was deeply involved with the financial services industry and Fintech industry. He was also an executive director at Nikko, a Japanese company. Prior to that, his education takes us to the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford of all the places in London, where he received his accolades as a Master’s of honors in mathematics and then physical applied mathematics. Sleem, welcome to our studio and welcome to our podcast. And the first question that comes to mind is mathematics, London, your family is from Pakistan. How do you wind up in Dubai? Please tell us.
Sleem Hasan (01:13):
Well, I might as well start from the beginning because then you’ll get the entire picture, if you allow me to. I was born in the Fiji Islands. That’s in the South Pacific and at the age of two, my father got a job, my late father got a job to move to Nigeria. I come from a family of lawyers: my sisters, third or fourth-generation barristers in the family. And everybody did law, so we moved to Nigeria and that’s where my formative years were spent in the Northern parts of Nigeria starting off in Kano, then Kaduna, then Sokoto. And then from Sokoto where I did my only levels to the English system, I got a place to read mathematics at Oxford at my late father’s old college, Wadham College at Oxford.
Sleem Hasan (02:11):
So I was very excited and I arrived in Oxford, I remember, in September-October 1978, and they very kindly gave me his old room, staircase 11, room 6. And that really, really chuffed me to no end. And yeah, I spent three years there and I fell in love with maths and I wanted to be an academic. So my tutor advised me to do the part three of the mathematical tripos at Cambridge, which is basically one of the two triposes at Cambridge that actually has four parts. It’s almost like a misnomer tripos would imply three. That’s the number that comes to mind, but mathematics and physics actually have four parts. And the part three of the mathematical tripos at Cambridge is almost like a stepping stone to do a Ph.D. So that was really the game plan initially. Having secured a grant to read at, to do the part three of the math stripe was at Cambridge.
Sleem Hasan (03:13):
I thought, well, if I can secure a grant to do a Ph.D, there’ll be no burden on my late father. And I’ll be happy to do that. Unfortunately, I did not get a grant, so consider myself a failed academic at heart. And that’s when I decided to move to London and decided to earn my crust. These were early Thatcher years, early 80′, the years 1982 now. And it wasn’t easy trying to secure a job because a lot of privatization programs going on, culling exercises were in place, but I persevered and 11-12 months later pounding the streets and knocking on doors and applying for jobs. There were three Japanese companies that actually very kindly invited me for a first interview. Two of them actually turned me down and that wasn’t surprising because I’d had a huge long list of rejections till that point.
Sleem Hasan (04:17):
And then one particular company called Nikko Europe PLC invited me back for a second interview and guess what? They offered me a job as a graduate trainee, inbound salesman to start my career. And the rest is history, as they say. And that’s how my journey sort of changed from the world of academia into the financial world. I just wanted a job. They were kind enough to offer me a job. They sent me to Japan to train in 1984. So that was a show years. And I’m sure you’re familiar with that, Alex, you seem to be quite knowledgeable on Japan yourself.
Alex Romanovich (04:55):
Yes, a little bit.
Sleem Hasan (04:55):
And I mean, that was the emperor at the time. So they go by the emperors period. Yeah, so I trained in Japan, came back and at the age of 26, I was one of the youngest directors, if not the youngest director pointed at Nikko Europe PLC.
Sleem Hasan (05:13):
I ran the equity and equity derivatives department for seven of the 11 years that I was there. And I guess I had risen up the ladder as fast as one could do as a gaijin, meaning non-Japanese as opposed to the Nihongjins. And I had a lot of fire in my belly and I wanted to do more, but obviously you hit a glass ceiling. And that’s when I went to the chairman of Nikko Europe at the time and I asked him if he could grant me early release, he gave me his blessings. And that was when I really embarked into the big, bad world to try my luck at doing my own thing. And it took a while to plan to the SFA, which is the UK regulatory body for financial institutions. They’ve since then changed or morphed in terms of their structure.
Sleem Hasan (06:08):
But it’s now called the Financial Conduct Authority of the United Kingdom. It’s equivalent to your SCC in the U.S. and 11 months later, August, 1996, I get a letter from the SFA saying you’ve been granted a license to start work, and guess what? I never looked back. I just got my hands and feet deep dived into it straight away and started working like a maniac. And in the first three years, I’m pleased to say I made multiple returns on my capital reported at UK company sales with the UK regulators at the time. And that was really my first taste of entrepreneurship ever. Obviously markets have ups and downs, good days, bad days. And after a while it became, this was my bread and butter for a while. So the year is 2002 now, and I was on an Emirates flight going to Karachi.
Links & Info
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