“I guess you could call me an engineer with a difference”
Amer Fatayer had always felt a gravitational pull towards education. He holds a bachelors in control and systems engineering from the University of Sheffield and a masters in organisational psychology from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), which he completed in 2009. “I guess you could call me an engineer with a difference,” he laughs. “I have analytical and people skills.”
Fatayer began his career with GlaxoSmithKline as a control engineer handling an internal transformation project. One year after studying organisational behaviour at LSE, he became a strategy consultant at global consulting firm Charles River Associates (CRA). In 2011, fate intercepted. “Lots of my contracts were based in regions experiencing social unrest – Bahrain and Saudi – so I thought, now’s the time to move.” By chance, Fatayer met a partner at Deloitte whom he knew from his high-school network. “Within two days, I had an offer from Deloitte.” He joined Deloitte UK as Manager, M&A, Operational and Commercial Due Diligence, based in London.
In 2012, Fatayer was presented a unique chance to set up a practice in Dubai. He says: “It’s not often you get that kind of opportunity without being a partner, so I took it.” As assistant director of Deloitte Corporate Finance, he led on the firm’s operational advisory services practice with both corporate and private equity clients. His work involved business reorganisation, operational enhancement, strategy and business review.
In 2015, Fatayer embarked on an Executive MBA Dubai (EMBA Dubai) at London Business School (LBS). The Dubai campus, a purpose-built education centre in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), was just a stone’s throw from his workplace.
“I had always wanted to take an MBA and use it as a career progression tool. It was perfect timing – I could see the DIFC from my window.” It wasn’t just timing that coalesced. “If it wasn't for the block-week format, I couldn’t have afforded the time off. The block weeks managed the expectations of everyone around me.”
In his second year at LBS, Fatayer received an unexpected email via the School’s Career Centre. “I was flying to London for my electives and I got an email through the LBS network asking whether I would be interested in a role at an M&A practice.” The role was to lead corporate strategic investments in global start-up ecosystems, at Majid Al Futtaim, a shopping mall, communities, retail and leisure pioneer across the Middle East, Africa and Asia. As he was in London, Fatayer interviewed for the position and joined the firm the following month.
“It was an exciting opportunity for a great firm with a good reputation in the Middle East,” he says, admitting it was hard to turn down the opportunity to get involved in the whole investment lifecycle and deal process rather than pre- and post-deal as an advisor.
Much of Fatayer’s experience leading up to the MBA had centred on value creation. He explains: “I wanted to widen my knowledge. Coming from turnarounds and management consulting, I wasn't the strongest in certain financial areas. But a CFA would have been too technical.” The EMBA offered Fatayer a well-rounded education in business with options to specialise with more focused finance electives.
During the programme, Fatayer cherished classes that allowed him to dig deeper into topics of interest. For instance, a distressed-investing class with real-world practitioner Justin Bickle from Oak Tree Capital, facilitated by Francesca Cornelli, Professor of Finance, and Florin Vasvar, Professor of Accounting; capital markets and financing with Vikrant Vig, Professor of Finance; and negotiation and bargaining with Gillian Ku, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour.
Through applicable case studies, Fatayer quickly discovered how to adapt the frameworks to different situations. “There are multiple ways to negotiate. There are multiple worldviews to reorganisation and investing.
“With a consulting background, it’s easy to become a little arrogant and think you can predict people. But from dealing with the diverse minds I met at LBS, I realised that regardless of their background, everyone has something to contribute to every aspect of the process.
“That's the huge value of being in a diverse class versus being stuck in a mindset.”