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Dubai online trading firm takes initiative to help less fortunate

Iskandar Najjar is the chief executive of Alpari ME DMCC, an online trading firm based in Dubai.

While business is usually about making profits, Mr Najjar says Ramadan is a time to think about others who are less fortunate.

Here he talks about his company's involvement, which started last year, with SOS Children's Villages.

Who's idea was it to launch Alpari's Ramadan charity drive for SOS Children's Villages?

It was my idea. I've been in the online trading business for some time - I'd say for nearly a decade now - and I came to see that there were very little CSR [corporate social responsibility] initiatives run by online trading companies, not just in the region, but also on a global level. Further to this, I am from the region and I do understand the necessities for charities, so it was a perfect opportunity to be able to combine Ramadan, which is essentially very much a time of giving and thinking of the less fortunate than us and tying it up with what we do.

How does it work?

We are an online trading platform. So a client will execute a trade and we execute that trade into the market through buying euros, dollars or selling the Aussie dollar, for example, or whatever strategy they are pursuing. We then have a commission we charge them for executing that trade, like a brokerage fee, as part of the spread. It is basically very much correlated to the percentage per profit we make as commission fees that are then donated towards the charity.

What does the SOS Children's Village charity do?

The SOS Children's charity is a regional non-profit organisation that is also available on a global level. It is in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and they are very strong in the Middle East. It is a great initiative that helps the less fortunate children or orphaned children to be able to live as normal a life as we do. I visited a village last year in Jordan and it is very touching. The more that we can help, the better opportunities we can give the children. Each home has around eight children, so you have a 'mother' who looks after them and they try to allow them to live as normal life as possible, where they go to school in the morning, they come back and they do their homework in the evening. They try to create as much a family atmosphere as they possibly can, bearing in mind the difficulties these children have.

How much did you raise last year?

Last year, we raised just over Dh100,000 [US$27,226]. Our focus was towards vocational activities for these children. Those funds were allocated either to help redevelop workshops that they had and used to buy books. We helped more than 50 children in that village [in Jordan]. Our target is to maybe help more than 100 children this year.

How have your clients reacted to the initiative?

The feedback has been very positive. There are very few initiatives such as these in the financial services or online trading industry. It was something new, something fresh and we have had some tremendously positive feedback, which has helped us continue.

How important is CSR?

It is tremendously important; to the UAE, to the region as whole, especially in these times. We are hopefully getting out of the economic crisis, but times are harder than they were five years ago. And contributions to non-profit organisations also take their toll. So the more we can do to help, the more important it is. There are certain situations taking place in the region whereby such contributions are needed more and I believe the need is far greater than it was when times were good. Hopefully, many other organisations in other industries will be able to participate because you do get very positive feedback from the clients. You also get positive feedback from employees in the organisation to be part of such an initiative. We do get involved in our day-to-day lives and our lives are busy. But it is always a great reward from a personal level to be able to contribute in some way.

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