Meet our entrepreneur
Could you tell us about your background and how you got into the financial industry?
My background is interestingly enough not within finance but within process and chemical engineering. When I started my career over 25 years ago it was in the petrochemical industry; I wore a helmet and gloves to work and dealt with reactors, catalysts, you name it. In 2004, I was assigned as project manager on a large petrochemical project. The foreign investor in this project assigned a business and finance advisor whom I worked with closely. Our partnership would eventually develop into a boutique corporate finance firm, with a specialist in the petrochemical and infrastructure industries and a specialist in the financial industry. I found myself really enjoying exploring the financial world which led me to get an MBA degree in investment and finance.
How did Griffon Capital and its local Toranj Capital come about?
Eventually, the boutique corporate finance firm would turn into Griffon Capital in 2014. After a few years away from the company, working with energy and petrochemical projects as a business developer, I returned to Griffon, but this time with a new focus. Griffon is an international firm, but to be able to expand in the jurisdiction of Iran, Toranj Capital was established as a local licensed financial institution. I am now MD of Toranj Capital; since 2018, the company has built a successful track record stemming from the radical shift from a mere focus on the international market towards a focus on the local capital market. Only 4 or 5 years later, we are now in the top 5 asset management and advisory firms in the country.
How would you describe the Iranian Capital Market sector?
The Iranian Capital Market sector is relatively young, but also more diversified in terms of industries compared to regional peers such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia. In 2008, a fundamental shift occurred with the ratifying of the capital market act in Iran. We saw a huge transformation in the governance of the market that paved the road for capital market service providers and for companies readily listing in the market. Iran now has four stock exchanges with some 800 listed companies, stretching over a wide range of industries, and a total market cap of some EUR 200 billion.
Could you describe Griffon Capital in a few sentences?
Griffon Capital is a financial service company with a mission to support investors and entities through asset management and investment banking services. We are also a pioneer in supporting tech companies with financial services and have contributed to the development of a new ecosystem.
What are some of your achievements to date with the financial service group?
Toranj Capital now serves over 100,000 clients through 9 investment funds. These clients range from retail investors in outlying areas to entrepreneurs and to very large entities. The major achievement of Toranj Capital is our developed and integrated young team of 130 people and our wide-ranging client base of retail investors. We are the third largest asset manager in Iran, and we are reputable as one of the best asset managers in the eyes of major institutions. We have achieved all of this in around 5 years, and we have exciting prospects ahead.
What are some challenges that you have faced as an investment/finance entrepreneur?
Succinctly, a single model does not exist for a local successful company given the youth of the Iranian capital market. Team development and a lack of experience in the local market are therefore the main challenges. In the past years, the pandemic has also added to this difficulty of building a team and injecting corporate culture. Looking forward, added risk control, and further strengthening of corporate processes with a focus on governance will be central in importance.
What are some of your goals with regards to Griffon Capital/Toranj Capital and personally?
We have never proposed to be the first, or largest company in our sector. We have KPIs and objectives that are different in nature; we would like to bring both sides of the business towards consistent and sustainable growth in both sides of the business, irrespective of ranking. We would like to remain in the top 5 biggest asset management companies but will not push to grab money at all costs. At the moment, all vehicles are growing very well, but the next step is to make synergies between vehicles and instruments in the markets.
How does the cooperation with Pomegranate work?
The cooperation with Pomegranate is constructive and entrepreneurial. Pomegranate has a unique position in the company as the institutional shareholder, and we look forward to continuing our cooperation.
Lastly, for us how do not know Persian, what does Toranj mean?
Like yourselves with have chosen a fruit as company name. We love persian food J Toranj is a bergamot citrus fruit. The word has roots in Iranian culture and poetry, where “Toranj” were very famous carpeting patterns and graphics. Our other local funds also follow this theme, with names focusing on trees, fruits, and other natural elements. Now that I mention it, our naming of funds also makes us unique.
The company has built a successful track record stemming from the radical shift from a mere focus on the international market towards a focus on the local capital market.