The WFE's Women Leaders 2021 - Hebatallah El Serafi, Assistant Chairman and Head of Disclosure Sector, The Egyptian Exchange
Nominee’s name: Hebatallah El Serafi
Member: The Egyptian Exchange (EGX)
Nominee’s job title: Assistant Chairman and Head of Disclosure Sector
1. - Brief description of nominee’s role/job:
After having managed the Surveillance, Market & Research, Strategic Planning, and International Relations Departments at the Egyptian Exchange, Heba el Serafi currently occupies the position of Assistant Chairman and Head of Disclosure & Corporate Governance Sector at EGX. Alongside that, she is a member of the EGX Listing and Trading Committees as well as a member of the World Federation of Exchanges’ SMEs working committee. She has more than 20 years of experience in the fields of research and capital market development, securities trading, market surveillance, companies’ governance, credit analysis and risk assessment.
2. - Short bio (career highlights, education, interests/hobbies):
Since her youth, El Serafi has always been determined to invest her enthusiasm and energy in fruitful activities. As a young adult, she always prioritised fitness alongside her education. She started off in the French Lycée du Caire along with a diploma in the French Language and its scientific jargon from “Le Conseil d'Administration de l'Alliance Française” as well as the “Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de Paris”, after which she enrolled in the American University in Cairo. She earned her BA in Economics, and embarked right away on her journey to fulfil her career ambitions. Early in her career, she held a number of positions at the Arab African International Bank and Fleming CIIC investment bank. Alongside that, she completed the core and advanced credit courses as well as the Investment Appraisal, Project Finance and Risk Analysis from Cambridge Resources International, the US Capital Market School programme from New York Institute of Finance as well as Women on Boards and in Business Leadership programme. She also successfully fulfilled the requirements of the Board Development Series programme and thus became a certified Board of Directors member by ISS and IFC.
El Serafi served on the Board of Directors of Egypt for Information Dissemination Company (EGID), along with being the Vice Chairman of the Corporate Governance Committee at the American Chamber. Later on, she became a member of the Committee which drafted Egypt’s Corporate Governance Guidelines issued in August 2016 and she secured membership in the Egyptian Institute of Directors (EIOD) Board of Trustees, as well as the board of the Research & Commercial Studies Center – Cairo University. While it all might seem quite a hectic and crowded daily routine, maybe even not allowing any room for leisure, El Serafi still maintains her appreciation for her hobbies and interests outside the professional framework. She possesses another side; one that does not always show in her daily work life. In fact, she appreciates reading as well as spending time with her family. In addition, she is very interested in tennis and exploring different cultures through travel. She was actually able to satisfy by visiting various countries around the world. Accordingly, she is very much in touch with her simple outlook on life since she enjoys unsophisticated activities, as long as she does them with her close ones.
3. - What were your professional highlights and challenges of 2020?:
The past year was a challenging for all of us, especially since we were all obligated to smoothly conduct daily activities remotely during lockdown. With an anxiety-inducing pandemic, there was a risk that the economic crisis would destabilize the balance of work at the marketplace. However, we attempted, and are still working on mitigating the situation and making sure that all operations are carried out smoothly with facilitated access to all issuers and investors. In my capacity as a Head of Disclosure & Corporate Governance sector at the EGX, I worked hard to lead by example for listed companies in promoting gender equality and sustainability. My team and I aimed to implement inclusivity among listed companies with the goal of developing the economy and making it rather resilient. Accordingly, a collaboration with the AUC Women on Board Observatory has taken place to facilitate services offered to listed companies, while also raising awareness about gender diversity within the field. Moreover, I worked on restructuring and repositioning the stock exchange SMEs platform to ensure that it is poised to provide a conducive environment for SMEs to develop and access equity market finance and help maximize their contribution to the local economy.
4. - What and who inspires/has inspired you to achieve your professional success:
As much as it might seem a clichéd answer, it is my mother who inspired me the most in life. However, I do not see any reason for it to be disdained because many young women follow the steps of their mothers in life, and that only emphasises that great women were, are and will be always present within our societies, as they take on various roles allowing them to productively become essential contributors to the progress we witness. Hence, my mother has always been an important figure in my life; not just as a mother, but as a woman who maintains her grace and balance between her work and personal life. I always watched how she maintained her professionalism and commitment as an HR Director in one of the most important banks in Egypt. My mother’s work was a top priority and she always wanted to invest in her own career, which motivated me to become just like her. Having to hold this position, my mother decided to sacrifice many luxuries in her life, and also taught us, her children, to become more independent. Hence, I had always thought that I ought to have the same professionalism and respect she had for work, especially since she was always there to push me forward and encouraged me to maintain my commitment to my career at the beginning of my journey.
5. - What advice do you have for other women who aspire to be in leadership positions:
I would tell them to maintain their commitment to their career. It is very easy for anyone to stray away when faced with obstacles, or even become distracted with the luxuries of life; but it all comes at a price. It all becomes worth it at the end, when you reach your goal and explore new horizons, which you never thought you could have seen. Thus, some sacrifices might come in handy with the progress of your career, along with complete determination to reach your desired position. In addition, surrounding yourself with supportive people will be essential as well, because they lift you through your difficult times, which surely you will encounter during your journey. Make sure these people offer advice on what’s best for you, and that you are always completely certain about every decision you take. Finally, I urge you all to maintain your professionalism while working. Many incidents and encounters can provoke you, or even generate anger and impulsiveness in you, but you should handle them all with grace. Do not ever question the faith in yourself and your capabilities, in order to maintain strong endurance against all the obstacles you may face.