From Refugee to King’s Ministerial Advisor: Sayd Farook Journey to Success

Dr. Sayd Farook is a regular contributor writer to Halalop, who had served as a Strategy and Foresight Advisor at the Executive Office of the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

He is now back in Australia where he resides with his extended family where he serves as a Head of Group Strategy for Crescent Wealth while being a Senior Partner at Dinar Standard, the global strategy consultancy focused on Islamic markets. We interviewed him here to find out more about the man and how he came to be.

His story is reminiscent of the story of Prophet Yusuf a.s. where Prophet Yusuf became a refugee in Egypt, and faced several adversities before finally becoming an advisor to the king of Egypt.

Started as a Refugee

“I spent 16 years of my youth in Bangladesh and I moved to Australia with only 200 dollars in my pocket, as a refugee, with no background, no networks, no money, nothing. I had to make something of myself, Alhamdulillah and God is very kind to me.

My mother applied to get refugee status for us, and that is how we got out of Bangladesh.

Alhamdulillah, God has a plan for all of us. That’s how I came to Australia and I did well in university.”

Dr. Sayd Farook with his mother and siblings came from Bangladesh as refugees to Australia.

“God has a plan for all of us.”

Dr.Sayd Farook studied Law and Business in a University in Australia, and he subsequently furthered his Doctoral studies in Behavioural economics focused on Islamic banking. His research on Islamic finance covered countries from Bahrain, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Moving to the Middle East

While still pursuing his Ph.D. in Islamic finance in Australia, he received a job offer to work in Bahrain at the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance to be a Research and Development Manager at the Center for Islamic Finance.

“Subhanallah, at the same time my wife was offered a job in Bahrain as well. She was looking for a job in Australia but it was difficult for her as she wears the hijab.”

“So we moved to Bahrain, and we were both young at around 23, 24 years old.”

“I then completed my Ph.D. and moved on to an investment advisory firm in Bahrain which had institutional shareholders in the UK. So I worked in Bahrain and in the UK.”

“While I was there, I was invited to be the Global Head of Islamic capital markets for Thomson Reuters. While it was a big organization, there were no Islamic finance capabilities. I grow Islamic finance basically from scratch to a multi-million dollar business with extensive reach all over the world. We essential became the definitive authority on Islamic finance.. These included Dubai’s Capital of Islamic Economy initiatives launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.”

Adviser to the Ruler’s Executive Office

“While I was working on the Islamic economy initiatives with the Executive Office of the Vice President, the then leader (the Director-General of the Executive Office) invited me to work with them due to my expertise, not only in the Islamic Economy but in other initiatives and strategies. So they hired me as an Advisor to the Executive Office – the peak office that launches initiatives and strategies on behalf of the Ruler of Dubai and sometimes also as his role as Prime Minister. They don’t hire many ex-pats and especially non-Arabs, but they hired me, Alhamdulillah.”

“God had a plan for me and I served for five years, Alhamdulillah.”

“I still have friends there in the Ministries and government offices:  Emiratis are very good people with high integrity and down to earth – but given there are few and far between most don’t get to interact with them – I was very lucky to have interacted with many of them and got to live with them as close friends while I was there.”

Kickstarted Several Initiatives

While working for Thomson Reuters in Dubai, by the end of 2012, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced that he wanted to make Dubai the Capital of the Islamic economy.

“I was already in Dubai at the time. I told my superior, an Englishman, that we should support it and help them achieve their ambition. We took a big stake. We held a conference with the government entities, The Global Islamic Economy Summit for which all the reports were overseen by my team.”

“We also launched several other platforms. Salaam Gateway came out of that as well.”

“I did a lot of other projects with the Government of Dubai, where I proposed several initiatives. That was how I got the credibility as the head of the Islamic business at Thomson Reuters.”

“.I’m the type of person who likes to build and go on to the next project. When it was time to leave my job at Thomson Reuters, the then Director-General of the Executive Office invited me to join them as a full-time in-house advisor.”

“I agreed because it aligned with my mission and values.”

“At the time, I was the CEO of another private institution. I had to take a pay cut from the private sector to work in government. Alhamdulillah, it has been amazing where I worked in an advisory role in innovation and strategy at the government level.”

“The most memorable ones were the ones that transformed Dubai which is Dubai 10X which is a government transformation and disruption program. The other one was the UAE AI Strategy 2031 which is the AI strategy for the government.”

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Dealing with Challenging Times

However, Dr. Sayd Farook and his wife decided to move back to Australia to be closer to their extended family, some of whom are in very poor health.

Although he gained high status as an advisor to the Ruler of Dubai, he had to overcome difficulties early on in his life. He further explained,

“I came to Australia with only 200 dollars. I had to work and find out how to build a career.”

“As Allah tells us how to respond to difficult times. That this life is a test, and we should be grateful. The main thing is that I try to remember due to our role models:”

“1 – That even if we have something, it can be taken away at any time.

2-  All belongs to God, not ours and if Allah wants to take it away, our prestige, power, or positions, He takes them away immediately. And He gives it immediately as well.”

“I have seen it happen in my life, from a very young age.”

“Everyone has their own difficulties and tests. We can only try to serve our Creator, and the rest is up to Him. We  rely only on Allah, and Allah has been very kind to me.”

Crescent Group

Dr. Sayd Farook said that although he moved back to Australia, he is not done with work in Dubai and the wider Gulf region. He has several companies he is affiliated with, in  Dubai, including Dinar Standard where he is a Director of the Board and Senior Partner, and Falcon Network, an angel investment management firm.  

“I realized that my best skillset is in ideation to incubation, and then execution and launch. To build something and create the right team and environment for others to thrive in.”

Besides his management consulting role in Dinar Standard and venture investment roles, his current focus is on growing the Crescent Group of companies which includes Crescent Wealth and Crescent Finance that focuses on authentic Islamic finance and investment solutions.

Crescent Wealth already has 12,000 members with more than $350 million under management. He intends to support its growth to assets under management of more than $2 billion in 5 years and grow the member base by more than 35,000 in that time, which is imminently achievable.   

Crescent Finance – unlike other Islamic Finance institutions, plans to provide authentic structures whereby they co-invest funds that are not simply borrowed from a conventional bank at an interest rate and wrapped in legalese to make them appear Islamically compliant. “Such providers have been around for many years and in effect are mortgage broking firms with a twist and do not pass the basic smell test on ‘where did you get your money from?’ Crescent Finance plans to answer that question decisively and transparently,” said Dr. Farook.

His Drive for Success

“You know the article I wrote – ‘The Muslim Mindset: What Legacy Are You Leaving Behind?‘ That drives everything. That drives my vision in life that ultimately, I’m going to die.”

“When I’m going to die, I can’t take any of these with me, my position, my ownership, all the assets in the world, all the money in the world.”

“The only thing I can take to my Creator, to Allah s.w.t, is my deeds, and my children. I can hope and pray that I teach my kids the right things, and I can share knowledge. These are the only three things I can take to my Creator.”

“That’s why that article is so important for me, personally.”

“That’s why I like to build institutions. I build institutions and think of how can that institution survive without me, not reliant on me. Even if I’m not there, it continues to sustain and it continues to grow.”

“When I die, you’re not going to remember me. Maybe you’ll remember me for a few years and say that I’m a good person. So what?”

“But people will remember your deeds and people will remember you helped them. Secondly, if there are institutions that are helping them they will thank that institution. So if I can help build institutions that build the positive change that will be most valuable to me.”

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