How do you spend your weekends?
Asking this question to a bachelor can be tricky. Well, if I am in my home country, Pakistan, my weekend activities could range from visiting the country’s beautiful capital, Islamabad – a four-hour drive from my home – to going through loads of research stuff in my home chambers, to doing a few extra super-sets in the gym, to spending time with my mom.
That was, of course, when the world was corona-free. For the last three weekends (and, I expect, at least for another two) every day is a weekday for me, and it’s just me and a lot of work in my home chambers. Our firm undertook the formidable task of curating the Travel Restrictions Index amid this pandemic, and when entry regulations of more than 200 destinations are changing so rapidly, you can imagine how much occupied I and my colleagues can be.
What are your top three business goals this year?
We are an ethos-driven firm – have always been, will always be. Since late 2019, we have been working on fully incorporating one specific modus operandi in our practice, for which we will be voluntarily undergoing a specific audit. Things are pretty much already set, and we expect to launch this model in Q3, this year.
I am not at liberty to share many details – for now – but, hopefully, we will be announcing it by, or before, the end of this year.
The second goal is to further strengthen our presence in Turkey. We already have a good market position for the Turkish program and, in addition to our private client practice for Turkey, we also receive inquiries from agents who are in search of a reliable partner for their clients’ investments and citizenship applications in Turkey.
This pandemic is going to change the investment migration industry and I firmly believe Turkey is one of those countries that are going to outperform, whether from the perspective of citizenship-by-investment or from attracting other large-scale investments to the real economy.
My third aim is to increase the sales through physical and digital channels and this, again, is something we are already working on.
What’s your biggest business concern right now?
Frankly speaking, I do not have any business concerns right now. If you had asked me this two months ago, I would have named a few. But the ongoing pandemic, apart from the destruction it is causing, would also put artificially-inflated things to rest.
We are, of course, experiencing delays in our ongoing work but, when you have not made any unrealistic and superman-esque promises to anyone, disasters like this don’t disturb your sleep. Our sales are also slow amid this pandemic, as we are not immune to this, but in a world where some people are finding it hard to get meals for their children, reduction in sales for a couple of months doesn’t destroy my inner peace.
Which book is on your night-stand right now?
I’m a life-long learner of Middle Eastern politics and inter-faith studies. The book I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time is The Humanity of Muhammad: A Christian View by Dr. Craig Considine, a US Catholic of Irish-Italian descent. The title was due to be published on May 1 but, in my recent direct communication with the author, I am informed that the publication date has been pushed back a little. Until then, there are a few other articles on international politics that I am reading in digital format whenever I find the time, which may not necessarily be at bedtime.
How and when did you first get into the investment migration industry?
My late father was a reputable attorney, and he got into the immigration field in the late ’80s, during which time long-term ‘visas’ were more common than residence permits. His solo immigration practice picked up pace in the early ’90s, after which he worked extensively on the US and Cyprus programs, in addition to that of Saudi Arabia. I can’t give you the exact numbers since I can’t tally this with him, but the number of applications he processed was in the hundreds – and that, back then, was a huge number.
I got into the immigration practice in 2011 and he, probably, acted as an inspiration for me. Simultaneously, I also started a travel management company, in which visa regulations of different countries was my favorite subject. That travel business, which I now only have a very small stake in, is one of the factors behind my extensive knowledge of the visa policies of different countries. Borders are back, at least for now, so if you, or anyone you know, ever need to work on a visa application, I might be able to do one application pro bono!
Back in 2011, when I first got into the immigration practice, the first application I did was for the Canadian Federal Skilled Worker Program on a pro bono basis; the applicant was a friend, now a grateful one. That was the first and the only Skilled worker application I, or HF Corporation, did.
My second application was also for Canada but it was under the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). After that, we worked on programs of the UK, the Caribbean, and the Baltics. Southern European programs came into the marketplace at a later stage and we included some in our portfolio.
What was your proudest moment as a service provider?
We are a client-centric firm so our happiness coincides with our clients’ happiness. There have been several proud moments and, honestly speaking, I cannot just name one. I can, however, recall one unique moment when we were asked by an Australian citizen of Lithuanian descent to assist her in her pursuit of Lithuanian citizenship through ancestry.
Which investment migration market development has surprised you the most in the last year?
That would, without a shadow of a doubt, be Turkey. I remember speaking to people from the investment promotion agency of Turkey in mid-2018 and presenting our recommendations to them related to the pricing of the program. But the popularity of the program, after it was restructured in late-2018, took even us by surprise. The program was receiving applications already in 2017 but the volume was low. I am convinced that once the pandemic is over, Turkey’s appeal is going to increase even further. Antigua also regained its popularity in the last year or so.
If you could go 10 years back in time, what business decision would you change?
I joined this business almost 10 years ago, so there’s not much I would like to change. International law, politics, migration, travel, and ethical investing are the topics that interest me. I like what I do, and I am doing what I like.
What investment migration industry personality do you most admire?
The tables are turning, so the definition of admirable figures may be changing, too, in the coming period, across different industries.
The size of business and/or political connections of someone are not the qualities that would appeal to the ‘inner me’ unless that person has actually worked for the betterment of mankind in an ethical and transparent way. I admire people but they work outside of our industry; I try to learn from them whenever possible.
That said, I do however have friends in the industry. I like the candidness of Sam Bayat, for example, despite the fact that we do not have a business relationship. Besides that, on a strictly personal level, I wouldn’t mind having yet another Tiramisu with JP Chetcuti in Cantinetta Antinori cafe in Zurich.
If all goes according to plan, what will you be doing five years from now?
What I can say now is that things are going to change drastically once this pandemic is over. The recession everyone was afraid of, but few were talking about, is not nearing. It is here and, somehow, there’s a strange correlation between a recession in the Transatlantic region and conflicts in the Middle East.
The “peace” situation in the Middle East is not looking good in the post-pandemic world. But, again, this is something that appears to drive the interest in investment migration programs. The nature of interest, however, may change over time. The relocation programs – like that of Turkey, Portugal or Canada, for instance – may appeal to more people in the coming times, while a few Southern European programs may get affected by the recent chain of events.
Five years down the road, I see myself doing what I already do: Helping (more) people actualize their global dreams.
More interviews from our 10 on the Weekend Series:
- Alexander Varnavas: “Real Estate is The King in This Industry”
- Sam Bayat: “I Know Too Many Secrets”
- Gareth Brookes: “Diversify Away From CBI-Services Only”
- Eric Major: “Our Industry Deserves Some of the Bad Press it Gets”
- Paul Williams: “Politicians Meddle in Successful Programs to Their Detriment”