Wall Street to Istanbul: Changes & Opportunities

Image The Bridge Careers in Finance, the first job board in Turkey dedicated to the finance sector, talked to Cenk Aydin, Founder & Managing Partner, Halikarnas Financial Services and Advisory about his goals, plans and achievements. You’ve had a long successful corporate and investment banking career both in Wall Street and London. What has prompted you to start a new firm, Halikarnas Financial Services & Advisory from scratch in Istanbul? .

Banking has changed significantly over the last 20 years.  An institutional concept that had emerged to help societies, savers, investors and entrepreneurs,  has turned into oversized over-regulated mammoths. Additionally, populist politicians in USA and Europe were not keen on assuming joint-responsibility for the events that led to 2008 crisis.  They instead chose to bash banking and over-regulate the system so that banks can no longer operate properly to do what they are supposed to do.

Not only as a banker, but also as a Global Citizen who feels responsible for the future of the world, I strongly support the idea of reengineering capitalism.  I hence believe the old merchant banking needs to and will come back, with a new focus and emphasis on sustainability and social impact.  Smart, responsible and sustainable entrepreneurship is the exit for both countries in Emerging Countries and even in the old world.  

We do not need new whales, we need a community of dolphins. An echo system of intelligent, agile and nimble organizations that are integrated with each other through efficient supply chain integration.  This is what the world needs. I also would like to realize my own dreams.  I have always thought and planned building my own financial services firm and maybe a proper bank one day.  I believe this is the right time for me.

Most importantly, I wanted to live with the love of my life, my daughter Lara, in the same city. Therefore, I decided to realize my dream here in Istanbul.  This is the right time and right place for me. Having said that we have also a strong presence in New York and London.

What are the main challenges of setting up a Financial Advisory firm in Turkey?
I would say Turkish market is not more difficult than UK.  Therefore, I am encouraging Investors and advisors to move their regional Headquarters to Istanbul with a long term view. However, I strongly recommend them to cooperate with a trustworthy local partner to overcome cultural and idiosyncratic challenges.

As Halikarnas, you offer services across a few lines of businesses – from specialist sovereign recovery, to capital markets, corporate finance and real estate and business development advisory. Given the current state of the Turkish economy and political situation, what is your outlook for these sectors? Do you plan to have a stronger emphasis on one or two particular sectors?
We service multiple industries.  We have clients in Infrastructure, Agriculture, Energy, Financial Institutions, Automotive, Hospitality, Pharmaceuticals Industries and also High Net Worth Individuals across the world within our Wealth Management Practice.  We are segmented by product specialty and industry expertise.  Each industry is facing different set of challenges. Clearly Emerging Markets are going through serious political and economic turmoil.  I would however say Turkey is one of the healthiest among all.  We might have some hick-ups like in every country around elections.  However, I see many foreign companies wanting to expand into Turkey as a regional hub. Many Turkish Companies are planning to expand internationally. Definitely some our clients will be in need of additional debt or debt restructuring. As HFSA we are focused on delivering unique and targeted solutions to add niche value. To deliver this mission we need to approach our clients’ financial health holistically by advising them on business matters at Chairman, CEO and Board level. Our international, strategic, financial and business connections keep opening new doors to our clients.   Currently, we have clients from Turkey, Italy, UK, United States and Africa.  We are committed to understand their businesses, culture and their challenges as if they were our own.

A number of senior level Turkish investment banking professionals working in New York or London are asking themselves a question whether it is worth coming back and continuing their career in Istanbul. The idea was especially appealing a little while back during the global recession and the time of steep growth of the Turkish economy. As one who has done it, what would be your advice to professionals contemplating such change?
Every professional has different goals, dreams and risk profile. Turkey is definitely the right place to be an entrepreneur.  Global Banks’ local offices are usually very limited here with few exceptions. Turkish Banks are on the other hand very well established and have their own way of doing business locally.  The local market needs of new financial instruments and advisory. Clients definitely reward creativity, international access that leads to success.  For me the answer is doing my own business connecting all the dots mentioned above.  However, there are many ways of connecting dots.  Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

Many mid to senior-level finance professionals who made a choice to return from London or the US are experiencing some difficulties adapting to the Turkish culture working for local banks or financial institutions. Undeniably Wall Street environment is fundamentally different from the local working style. Nevertheless, you have built a mid-size team in a short space of time with very different backgrounds. What is your philosophy of hiring people?

One of my greatest challenges was my relocation from New York to London almost 10 years ago. I must say that my transition to Istanbul has been much easier.  I was lucky because I have two great business partners, Pamir Sezener and Ali Büyüksoy.  I do trust and respect both of them very much for their experience, knowledge and skills they bring to the table.  They have been in the market for over 25 years each.  

I primarily follow my instincts.  I like people who are able to work independently. I tend to hire people who are better than me.  Respect, transparency, honesty and delivery are what we care about when we hire.  Technical excellence and global experience are a must, but not enough.

You have received Young Global Leader Award in 2010 by the World Economic Forum. Firstly, which of your achievements were recognized by this award, and secondly, how has this award impacted your further career and business philosophy?
Every year, approximately around 100 global leaders under the age of 40 are awarded the title of Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum for their commitment to shape the future of the worlds.  Since the beginning of my career, I was not focused on monetary results.  I always tried to contribute to the world we live in.  I supported and volunteered for many not-for-profit organizations such as the EastWest Institute, Chatham House, President’s Circle of the Council on Foreign Relations, Medical Missions for Children, Carpathian Foundation, UIP (International Cooperation Platform) and many other global organizations in leadership positions or as a single contributor.  Economic Development, Sustainability, Impact Investment, Conflict Resolution and International Affairs are my hobby passions.  This passion led me to connect with many valuable world leaders who care about this world. 

My new passions are helping the economic development of my home country and also John Kluge’s toilet hackers project on a global scale.

The Bridge Careers in Finance (www.thebridgecareers.com) is among your recent investments. Why are you entering the recruitment sector in Turkey?
The Bridge was launched in October 2013 with an aim to address the demand for qualified and specialized professionals of a growing Turkish financial sector. Turkey’s financial sector is expanding at a fast pace with a multitude of new products, financial instruments and services coming to the market on a regular basis. If Turkey wants Istanbul to become a regional finance hub, it has a lot of work to do in catching up with the developed markets like London, New York or Hong Kong. Financial sector recruitment is one of the areas almost untouched by the progress, with a few generic websites servicing the whole country’s job market. Therefore, The Bridge was founded with a view to bring the best Western practices and create an efficient way for financial institutions to target and select qualified and specialized professionals, and, at the same time, offer job seekers the opportunity to access only the most relevant job postings and career related content.

As a member of the Turkish finance community, I believe that a platform like The Bridge will make a difference in the way companies recruit finance professionals and it will certainly help us to contribute to Turkey’s aim to become a global leader in finance.
For more information visit www.thebridgecareers.com  and www.halikarnasd.com

(Source: Bridge Careers in Finance - www.thebridgecareers.com)
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07