Steve Williams, Group Chief Executive Officer
Steve Williams, Group Chief Executive Officer

Steve Williams is Group Chief Executive Officer of the dynamic UAE-based finance company Gulf Finance. Gulf Finance is a proactive lender with a sole focus on small and medium-sized businesses.

The company first started 14 years ago where it engaged primarily in financing construction equipment. Steve Willimas was brought into the business in 2008 where he spearheaded a significant portfolio diversification, deleveraging its existing asset base and steering the company’s sector caps to no more than 20% in any one industry. Steve Williams says, “We got ourselves out of a sector that was dormant and high risk and are now into a very broad range of sectors. The large international banks gave the SME segment little recognition, but Gulf Finance literally jumped at the chance to focus here.”

Strength in its people

One of the things that make Gulf Finance so unique is its lending concept. The strength of the team gives Gulf Finance the ability to consider clients from all facets of the business and judge them on an individual basis, rather than the traditional approach of strict criteria and generalisation. “I have not compromised on quality,” states Steve Williams, who is proud to boast a team of international commercial and corporate bankers. “We have auditing skills, commercial due diligence and we apply best practices to make sure our clients get the right money and it’s secure for us. Everybody benefits.” The Gulf Finance team is understandably proud of its record. Since inauguration, Gulf Finance has lent €665 million (AED3 billion) to local SMEs with write-offs comfortably at less than 1%.

Expansion on the horizon

The future of Gulf Finance has no boundaries as far as Group CEO Steve Williams is concerned. The business will begin expanding regionally in September 2012, opening its first office outside of the UAE in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “The appetite for our products in Saudi Arabia is phenomenal and we can only enter this market because of our base and strength here in the UAE,” states Steve Williams. The near future looks promising, he explains. “There is further opportunity for us to grow substantially in the UAE in the coming 3 years, and with a stronger foothold in KSA we will look to further target the outlying region.”

Ambassador for the UAE

Steve Williams places importance on promoting the United Arab Emirates as a business hub, with a firm belief that the UAE is one of the easiest and most efficient places to start a business in the world. His only caution to businesses in the UAE is to appropriately manage their growth. This, he believes, is the biggest challenge for SMEs in the region. “It is hugely important to promote the UAE and the businesses that operate here. As an expat myself, I emphasise this as an ambassadorial step,” says Steve Williams. With the flexible environment and open dialogue provided by the UAE Central Bank within the public sector, Steve Williams urges investors to take notice.

“The UAE’s economy is fertile; if you plant seeds, water them, look after them, then you’ll be able to take a harvest. This will benefit the country, you as a business and everybody surrounding.”

Funding SME growth

Gulf Finance is sending a message to SMEs looking to expand or start up in the region. Gulf Finance is here to lend serious money to serious businesses. Steve Williams urges, “When you get on the ground here, we can provide you with dedicated financial professionals who can work with you, make the introductions, and provide the financing.” Gulf Finance is the lender of choice for those companies that have little track record here in the UAE, yet are sophisticated businesses existing in other markets. Steve Williams concludes, “We understand how to lend to these businesses, manage the risk, and take the bigger picture into consideration. The UAE is calling for talented, driven and enthusiastic business owners. Once you bring your business here, you’ll want to start growing. Gulf Finance will help you do that.”