Interview to Josef Ajram

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He is an unusual broker. Or an unusual athlete. Everything depends on how you want to see him. Born in Barcelona with a Syrian father, he makes it clear by saying “my job is the Stock Exchange.

Sport is a hobby that amuses me”, but from which he also receives huge benefits. His job as a coach in presentations and courses throughout all Spain and as a writer with six published books so far have made his profile a bit more complex His passion is the adrenalin, which he takes from both sport and day trading.

Josph Ajram con la revista Oimgzn

You started investing in the Stock Exchange really soon, what called your attention?

I love that morbid curiosity of not knowing what will happen tomorrow. I have been in this business for more than 16 years now and it is still my passion. It is a fascinating and catching world. I have learnt a lot from the Stock Exchange, a job that teaches you how to carefully control risks and to be efficient, and also teaches you important lessons applicable to your other aspects of your professional life.

As a professional coach, you advice and give conferences on financial markets. Could you give us some advice for investors?

You have to take into account that the Stock Exchange’s ultimate objective is just to get financing for the businesses to grow. We try to optimize our resources, that is, our investments, and make them as profitable as possible, always considering what we can lose and if so, that we are to blame.

So tell us, which are the investment trends in Spain?

Mainly, real estate investment. Foreign investors have seen the property market was really hurt, with a decrease of 50% since 2007 peaks, resulting in a huge amount of money being invested in any real estate, especially premium, for the last twenty months. Another investment trend, resulting from the awaited and current economic recovery, is in stock. The Stock Exchange has broken records during the last five years and this one in particular seems to be really positive.


What do you think about the new economic cycle towards which we are going?

Fortunately, the cycle changed long ago, something we could then foresee at a financial level. At a macroeconomic level, it is already being noticed through increases in GDP and gradual employment recovery. Microeconomics is the only field left. SMEs and families need to be recovered as the other three sectors did. If that happens, people will really believe in the increase in the quality of life. At a commercial level, if you ask anyone on the street, you will notice that there is a high number of people that is satisfied. I always ask in bars, hairdresser’s, stores, car dealers, etc. and few people have told me they have not improved, especially since last September–October.

So is this a good time to invest in the property market?

Undoubtedly, but we have to learn from what happened here and make it our object of study. The property market is a good investment right now, but mind that the more premium the property, and the larger the city, the better. Rural or second-residence areas may find it a bit more difficult to recover. But investing in the big city at current prices constitutes a life-long investment.

What do you think about the massive foreign investment in Spain? Is that going to help our market or hurt it?

It is a reality. But we have to consider that a percentage of such capital will go back abroad. It will not be invested here for ever since, as any capital of investment, it is focused on profitability and has come from emerging countries to Spain, where there has been a chance to make it more profitable. Investors have audaciously anticipated this good chance and we have to take them as referents. However, we have to take into account that in five or ten years’ time such investments are going to leave. That’s why we need a rotation of capital. When that happens, we should sound warning bells and be cautious. It is of vital importance to learn from past mistakes. It would be a pity if we take this crisis as just “a bank crisis” or “the banks’ fault” since it has been much more than that.

Do you think mortgage conditions are favorable right now?

They are really favorable. Euribor in 2008 was 3.5 and now it is 0.3-0.4. We have to consider that those levels will not last too long. Thus, everyone who asks for a mortgage now has to consider whether he or she will be able to pay it if there is a 3% interest increase in the next years. Now it is not a bad idea to take a fixed-rate mortgage because, although there is a big negative difference, conditions will be really favorable in the future. In the long term, a 2.5-3% fixed rate can be a great investment alternative within the property market.

On the other hand, how long do you think the exchange rate parity between Euro and Dollar will last?

Euro – Dollar parity was something many of us have been awaiting because, in the end, as any financial asset, it is a matter of cycles. The Euro used to be stronger than the Dollar and now it has weakened. Personally speaking, I think that so long as ECB incentive programs continue in force, the parity will continue, and thus the oil price will be controlled. The currency market is difficult to foresee but I think there will be a season during which the Euro will be weak, thus making it easier for exporting businesses to concentrate their activity abroad.

So, does this have a positive side then?

Yes, there is always a benefit. It will be more expensive for us to travel to the USA but those exporting to that country will be benefited.

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Considering the recent political change in Barcelona, could you please tell us which aspects you think our city could improve?

I think it is complicated to criticize the city right now. It is an important and really strong spot at an international level. Wherever you go, if you say you are from Barcelona, you will always get a positive reaction from people. What are the possible economic problems for the city? Undoubtedly, uncertainties that may arise from the pro-independence movement constitute a problem. This may result in many foreign investors reconsidering investing in dwellings, industries or any asset because of an uncertain future. After being able to know if there is actually a pro-independence process or not, that capital will come back.


As an amateur athlete, you probably have more earnings than a professional athlete, why do you think you call the attention of international brands like Bentley?

Profiting from sports has never been my objective. I do sports just for fun. What happens is that I create a valuable impact. Whenever I upload a picture, it reaches to 500,000 people in the social networks, and that is something to take into account. The “secret” has been to only accept products or brands that I myself would acquire. Credibility is easily hurt. If I had never thought about buying a Bentley, I could not have accepted it. Another key point is communication. One may have the best business idea but if it never gets to be known, you are lost. We are fortunate to live in times where communication is practically free and that should be taken as an advantage. I do it myself, without the help of any community manager. A hundred percent of content is mine and I personally reply any questions. In the end, that makes a difference. Above all, I do it because I like it and I understand that this is not my job either.

For many people, the Stock Exchange is an abstract idea and the clearest reference is the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, how does it really look like?

(Laughs) I wish they look alike! But they do not. It is, as you have just said, a very abstract world far from people’s knowledge. But in fact, there are 9 million Spanish that own publicly traded shares and many people who enjoy it.

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