Adam Ebrahim is the CEO of Oasis, a global fund management organisation specialising in Shari’ah compliant investment solutions.
Adam Ebrahim, along with his brothers Shaheen and Nazeem, began Oasis in 1997. Today, the organisation offers investment products and services across a number of capital markets and has assets worth over $4 billion under its management. In addition to institutional clients and high net worth individuals, Oasis specialises in offering investment opportunities for retail investors and individuals seeking to grow their real wealth. Its investments are geared to seek long-term capital growth and offer high levels of asset protection.
1. To what extent is your success a product of your upbringing and background?
I would not be where I am – or who I am – today were it not for the strong foundation laid by my loving and supportive family. We were taught to work hard and honestly, and to manage our finances sensibly. We inherited our parents’ passionate dislike of debt. In our home there was never a need to “keep up with the Joneses”, only the encouragement to live according to our own principles.
Despite growing up at the height of the South African apartheid era, I was brought up to pursue my ambitions wholeheartedly. I was taught to be confident in my own abilities.
2. How did your parents/family influence you?
My three brothers, my sister and I were raised in a home and community that thrived on unity, honesty, integrity and mutual respect. These principles, instilled by my parents from a very early age, kept me grounded. At the same time, the guidance I received under the mentorship of my father kept me disciplined and driven to succeed. These values and the examples set for me by my parents continue to shape who I am as a person and a businessman.
3. What is your educational background and were you good at school?
I went to school during a time of great upheaval and protests against apartheid education policies. These were the years that saw the birth of the slogan “Liberation before Education”, and the 1976 Sowetan school riots that marked a turning point in the liberation struggle. However, I went on to obtain my Honours degree in Economics at the University of Cape Town and later qualified as a Chartered Accountant and a Chartered Financial Analyst.
4. What was your biggest break and was there an element of luck involved?
I would not ascribe any portion of my success to luck. Rather, I believe that I am where I am today due to hard work, the unwavering support of my family and, above all, the grace of God. That being said, I was fortunate enough to be afforded a number of wonderful learning opportunities throughout my career. The first of these came when I went to work in the financial services industry in London. As the UK moved through a phase of liberalisation, I saw firsthand the euphoria of the 1986/87 stock market buoyancy – and the greed that went with it. I saw the impact of this greed when stock markets around the world dramatically crashed in what became known as Black Monday. This experience did much to reinforce in me the harmful impact that excess and greed can have.
Upon returning to South Africa, I worked for a blue-chip financial company, which, although previously recognised as the best in the industry, was going through a difficult time. This created an opportunity for me to excel. My biggest break came when I was able, with the help of my brothers Shaheen and Nazeem, to establish Oasis. We ensured that our business was correctly capitalised from inception and we based this business on the solid principles that we all shared. These important cornerstones played a significant role in bringing Oasis to where it is today.
5. What has been your biggest failure/s and how did you recover?
Despite having made a number of wrong decisions, I deem no setback a failure. I have learnt that when you make a decision you have to live by it. Should it not have the desired outcome, you manage and control its consequences as far as possible. Most importantly, you should take away from the experience a valuable lesson. Above all, always remember that sustenance comes from God.
6. What can others learn from your success?
That you cannot use your environment, lack of resources or lack of opportunity as a reason not to succeed. By pursuing your ambitions with courage, perseverance and dedication you can achieve whatever you remain truly committed to achieving.
7. Who are your heroes in life?
My father is my greatest hero, as the perfect example of a principled man with the courage to pursue success and provide unconditional support to his family. As a student my interest was on prominent Western military figures such as Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. Later in life, I became increasingly interested in significant Muslim historical figures like Khalid ibn al Walid, Abu Ubaydah ibn al Jarrah, and Tariq ibn Ziyad.
My man of the century is Recep Tayeb Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister. In leading the country, Erdogan has implemented numerous reforms, which have revolutionised Turkey and turned it into a dynamic nation with strong economic growth.
8. What’s the greatest pleasure you have had from your success?
It is a true privilege to be the first – and indeed the only – organisation in South Africa to offer the Muslim community a full wealth management platform that caters not only to their financial objectives but also to their religious beliefs. Perhaps my greatest pleasure comes from seeing so many people, amongst them widows, orphans and retirees, being able to live with dignity because Oasis has undertaken to manage their financial affairs in a prudent and principled manner. A second source of gratification comes from being able to draw individuals from historically disadvantaged communities into the investment industry by offering employment opportunities that may not have presented themselves otherwise.
9. What are the greatest enemies of success?
The fear of failure, which results when you do not trust fully your own abilities. This is closely followed by procrastination – which far too often leads to neglect, and by greed, which causes you to abandon your principles in favour of short-term and ultimately unsustainable solutions. Never forget that all success comes from the Almighty and that it is a gift from Him.
10. What would you like to say to people when it is time for you to leave this world?
That my family continues to work for the benefit of the Ummah and, in particular, for those less fortunate than ourselves. I would remind Muslims of our illustrious past that is filled with honour, dignity, fairness and great intellectual minds. I would urge everyone to strive towards being the best in whichever disciplines they may venture into, so that Muslims may once again draw together and be a leading light to the world. I would encourage all Muslims to pay their zakah and to always give freely. And above all, I would emphasise remembrance of God.