It is early morning at the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) and trading is under way. But gone is the shouting, excitement and buzz of an old-fashioned trading floor and in its place is a quiet and almost relaxed atmosphere. Sometimes laughter can even be heard as a joke is shared among traders.
This new sense of calm might be due to the current economic climate, or maybe it is the presence of female traders. Although women have been allowed to play the market since DFM opened more than eight years ago, it is only recently that they have become traders and in some cases given up good jobs to play the market full time.
Emirati Noora Al Afifi is one of them. She was in a highly paid position as a government official, but after visiting the DFM decided the lure of playing the stock market was much more fun, and financially viable, that she swapped her secure office job for the risky world of the Dubai trading floor.
Now a full-time trader, Al Afifi has made enough money to buy a house and likens her profession to an addiction. “I simply can’t get the DFM out of my head,” she tells Emirates Business. “Once you start you can’t stop – I don’t want to stay at home, I’d rather be here. Even on Fridays it’s on my mind, I can’t sleep and when I go to bed I take a calculator with me because I am always thinking about money.”
Before joining the DFM full time Al Afifi had been dabbling in stocks and shares on a part-time basis. But the profits she made on the stock market greatly outweighed those of her day job – she handed in her notice and has not looked back.
Although she would not divulge exactly how much she has made, she does say the “golden days” of the stock market boom are over, for now. “I made millions during those days, but now I come here and leave without much money. I don’t lose a lot each day, but I’m careful to only use my profits and not risk losing my savings,” she says.
Al Afifi is not alone in her quest to make a living from the stock market. According to data from the National Association of Securities Dealers, in the United States, 47 per cent of online traders are women, and although just seven per cent of full-time City traders in London are female, according to recruitment firm Alexander Mann, there has been an increase in women who dabble in the stock market for fun.
“It is unclear how many women play the stock market, but it is a growing trend among the female population. In recent months we have seen a growth in women buying stocks because they are cheap at the moment. If they’re willing to hang on before selling them they could make a lot of money in the future,” adds the spokesperson.
Gerard Aquilina, head of Barclays private banking, says one of the trends he has observed in the Middle East is “the increasing number of female investment bankers, financial fund managers, and portfolio managers”. He adds: “This trend is a testament to the growing influence of women in the region.”
According to a report published by Barclays Wealth in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit titled Wealth Insights, A Question of Gender, women cited “financial security as a key motivation for amassing and protecting wealth, reflecting the importance and the role of the family in this part of the world”.
According to the report, “although the Middle East has a relatively less established investor culture, women are most confident about investing in collective investments and hedge funds”.
But while Al Afifi plays the market to make money for herself, others work as brokers. One of them is Mamta Matlani, who over the past five years has managed to turn her client’s initial capital of Dh70,000 into Dh2 million. Her portfolio consists of different stocks, but she is particularly interested in Aramex and Amlak. Although Matlani is not making as much as she was a couple of years ago, she concentrates on daily trading to make the most of her client’s money.
“When we know the market is going to crash we sell to cover our losses. Now is a good time to invest because the markets are down, but people don’t want to put their money here,” she says, adding she can make between Dh100,000 and Dh150,000 a month, which is half of what she was making two years ago.
“The markets are down all over the world at present, which affects everyone but I always come to the DFM whether they are up or down, I just love it,” says Matlani.
Craig Holding from Accuma says: “The stock market is not secure and there is no guarantee that money will be made. In the current climate people need to be better at picking stocks and look at the reasons behind why certain ones are increasing and others declining.”
Women trading on a new career