The global citizen

Armand Arton, president and CEO of Arton Capital

The ideal world is a place without boundaries and limitation — where people can live and move freely and as they please.

Global citizenship is a buzzword in the making among the international elite. The premise is a world without boundaries that allows high net worth individuals to live and move between countries without restriction; bringing business, capital and philanthropic endeavours with them.

Taking this concept into the future, the global financial advisory firm, Arton Capital, recently launched their first South African branch in Cape Town. At the head of the institute is Armand Arton, a man with a dream of a world without limitation. Leadership met up with him to find out how the Global Citizenship Movement will contribute to not only empowering high net worth individuals, but how this can translate favourably for South Africa.

After arriving at the new headquarters located in the popular tourist destination in Cape Town, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the feel of international quality becomes apparent as one enters Arton’s office. The boardroom looking out over the bay, providing the perfect backdrop that reminds one of travel, created an excellent ambience in which to discuss the exciting concept of global citizenship.

Initiating the discussion on the topic of global citizenship, Arton describes his personal and professional path as one that indeed embodies the values of a true global citizen. “I am very proud of my Armenian origins; while I was born in Bulgaria, I had the opportunity to live in four continents before I turned 20. I had the opportunity to interact with different cultures, languages at an early stage and as a child I was confronted by the concept of the boundaries imposed by society based on nationalities, language and religion. At the age of 15, I continued my education in Canada. I believe that the life and the challenges of my immigrant investor family nurtured my passion for finance combined with the desire to help people. Once I realised that, it was a natural fit to work with governments, financial institutions and high net worth investors,” Arton says.

His entrepreneurial side developed at a young age and he remembers his time at university when he was part of team that founded the first mutual fund managed by students in Canada. “I was one of the youngest licensed brokers at one of the most prestigious financial institutions in Canada – BMO, Nersitt Burns. Then 10 years ago, while I joined the government partnership formula as one of the trusted intermediaries in the Quebec Investor Programme, I was able to begin the acomplishment of my dream by creating my own investment firm and navigating it to become an industry leader,” he adds.

Arton says when he initially established his company in 2006, it is was but a dream. Over the past eight years, however, it has grown and is now entrusted to more than 10 different entities on four continents. “We started our operations in Canada, and then expanded to the Middle East and soon after – to Europe.

We are currently developing the Asian market and a natural step in our global expansion is the African continent,” he says.Today the Arton Group comprises financial intermediaries, advisories, as well as credit institutions. Arton says that in all their companies and in every service they provide, their mission is to empower individuals and families to become global citizens.

“I consider myself fortunate to be able to lead a team of great professionals with a passion to change the world by making it a better place. Together, we are implementing a model that is recognised by the unparalleled degree of personalised service and attention to detail. Our global network of offices around the world gives us the ability to not only work in close contact with consultants who service high net worth investors, but also to positively contribute to the societies in which we operate,” says Arton.

When elaborating on the services that Arton Capital provides, he summarises it in a couple of words: “Empowering people and bringing about positive change are at the heart of what we do”. Through their expertise, they enable freedom of mobility, flexibility and sustainability.

“Apart from guiding clients in the process, we pride ourselves in enabling governments to provide enhanced tools for attracting foreign direct investment by offering them knowledge and experience and thus helping them bring sustainable development to their economies.”

When reflecting on the successes he and his company have achieved, Arton believes success is a “team word” and that it is seasoned with a variety of personal achievements. Though when it comes to personal achievements, the family man combined with success as an entrepreneur comes to light.

“My greatest achievement is my family — my wife, daughter and son. I am also proud to say that I am surrounded by a team of over 40 highly professional expects in this industry, most of whom have been with me since the very beginning. With time, we have grown, but it is a gratifying process to see that we are able to maintain our initial enthusiasm as we grow,” he adds.

Arton further indicates that his dealing with his clients has brought him a deep-seated feeling of gratification and that he feels happy when they complete a process for a client. According to him they have advised over 1 500 families and processed over US $1 billion in transaction and foreign investments over the years and that today they are seen as one of the leading firms in the industry.

“We are privileged to have worked with some of the most affluent and inspiring individuals in our industry and the trust and reputation we have built in our brand is our greatest asset and success.”

As per Arton, they represent some of the top 50 wealthiest and most powerful people in the world as per Forbes and Wealth-X. “More than 35% of our clients are ultra-high net worth individuals with over US$30 million in personal assets. Most countries who provide for immigrant investor programmes have requirements for an entry level of net worth, so our typical client will have a minimum of US$5 million in personal net worth,” he adds.

When elaborating on the Global Citizens Movement and the opportunities it offers, Arton says that human mobility has always been a part of mankind and that today global movement has intensified and diversified with over 225 million migrants – and that it is growing still. He further adds that obtaining a second residency and/or citizenship has become a powerful and strategic tool, “an asset with which to create a better, more stable and secure life”. According to him, the Global Citizens Movement gives people the opportunity to expand their options by providing a new life in countries that have better economy, education, social and political realities.

The benefits it will offer countries once they allow freer movement of high-net businesspeople go well beyond investment in various industries and sectors. According to Arton, there are numerous benefits for countries willing to embrace the concept. “By attracting foreign direct investment, countries attract liquidity; stabilise their public finance, their job market as well as the real estate market. By allowing high net worth individuals in their countries, they attract some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, which creates a tremendous knowledge spill-over. On a macro scale, the immigrant investor programmes contribute to improved trade links between sending and receiving countries, proving the economic benefits go in both directions,” he says.

Elaborating on exactly how the Global Citizens Movement will assist countries to attract foreign investment, Arton indicates that they advise government agencies around the globe on the creation, implementation and management of existing and/or new immigrant investor programmes. There are currently 20 operational immigrant investor programmes in the world and Arton is actively involved in ten of them. “In each one of these legislations, our knowledge and experience has helped the governments build a sophisticated tool for attracting sustainable economic development.

“As the curator of Global Citizen Forum, we also serve the industry by bringing together all industry stakeholders in a constructive dialogue about global citizenship. We encourage promotion of best industry practices and we advocate for more transparency.”

When asked about the importance of foreign investment to South Africa and Africa at large, Arton says South Africa is considered by many to be one of Africa’s biggest emerging markets and he most certainly shares this opinion. He says South Africa offers a variety of opportunities in different sectors, which makes it an attractive destination for investors.

“South Africa has a healthy business and legal environment. The legal framework is well developed and adopts international standards in patents, trademarks, competition, copyright and disputes. The banking regulations are among the greatest in the world and banking facilities are of high standards. All of this is a precondition to create and develop further incentives to attract FDI.”

Another important aspect of what Arton Capital strives to creates through their initiatives is sustainable development, and foreign investment is vital to this process. Arton says  without investment, sustainable development is impossible and that investment should be well planned and of high quality to help current economic practices become sustainable.

According to him, unplanned investments can undermine the country’s environment, especially its domestic development strategies. This is where he feels immigrant investor programmes can be used as a beneficial tool: “They give countries another means for boosting the economy by directing foreign investment into key areas that promote sustainable development.

“St. Kitts and Nevis is a prime example of a country where the economic benefits from immigrant investor programmes are accompanied by considerable environmental and social developments. In its current form, tourism in the Caribbean can have some undesirable effects on the local ecology, as well as on the social and cultural map of the region’s small island states.

“Kittitan Hill – a major real estate project, where Arton Capital is among the main investment facilitators, does not fail to address these issues. Its concept is rooted in four underlying principles: culture, society, economy and ecology. While boosting the tourism and hospitality sectors in St. Kitts and Nevis, it addresses some of the main regional and human development challenges the region of the Caribbean is facing,” according to Arton.

Taking into consideration the debate around the influx of foreign elements and the accruing of resources, Arton speaks openly about the subject. To him, there is certainly an element of collaborative exchange with the focus on mutual benefit at heart. “Every country that has started an immigrant investor programme has designed it to benefit not only the state budget, but also its societies. South Africa has an opportunity to dictate the terms of engagement with high net worth individuals.

“Because of this, you can waive off worries about depletion of local resources or disadvantaging the local people. This is also achieved by well-communicated government policies in this area. Where the society at large is aware of the allocation of the FDI attracted by means of immigrant investor programmes, they are more likely to support such initiatives as they are able to understand and see the public and the individual benefits such programmes bring about,” he says.

Taking this topic a step further, when asked about the fears many people have regarding high net worth individuals or businesspeople misusing power and mobility to over-accrue and dictate resources, Arton indicates that such fears can easily be put aside due to the diligent processes and values they have in place.

“Such myths are one of the reasons we have set ‘Transparency’ as the theme for this year’s edition of the Global Citizen Forum. Immigrants who invest to obtain second citizenship must meet number of criteria before being allowed to apply and one such criteria is to provide proof they have sufficient means to support themselves in the accepting country after they make the required investment. There are also different legal provisions that countries utilise, to ensure the local economy will continue to grow after such investments are made.

“One of the defining features that differentiates citizenship by investment from a regular investment is the long-term ties and commitment it creates. When one obtains a passport or citizenship they become a national of that country. They are not visiting temporarily to buy up the resources and leave to go to their home country because they are already in their home country.

“Citizenship is something that is passed through generations. This suggests that not only the business of the investor will be involved with the country, but also the business of his children, grandchildren and so forth. This is why citizenship by investment is recognised as a powerful tool for sustainable economic growth and development,” according to Arton.

The involvement of the state with Arton’s company and the Global Citizens Movement will also be significant. Arton says governments need to stay alert on the actions of fellow policy-makers and to make sure their legislation is competitive.

He mentions countries are becoming even more eager to implement legislative policies that will secure a better positioning on the international scale to attract more FDI. This is what the Arton Index is designed for. By initiating constructive and open dialogue among public figures, they will facilitate the development of positive competition and spreading out of best practices, according to him.

When elaborating on the philanthropic initiatives embarked on, Arton says that their foundation, the Global Citizen Foundation, seeks to involve global citizens in shaping a sustainable and responsible environment and lends a hand to the generation of leaders.

“I believe that no man is an island. As a global citizen, it is my duty to lead by example in shaping the future for our young generation. We are currently supporting two projects. The first one is an initiative by a United Kingdom-based charity to bring a global educational research project to Jordan through alumni networks in schools to help motivate students and improve their chances of accessing employment. The project has already included case studies in Central Asia, Europe, South America and Africa and is now being extended to the Middle East through Future First’s partnership with our foundation.

“The second project we are supporting is Unesco’s Education for Sustainable Development, which brings together Ethiopian and Arab university students to become leaders in sustainable development. The programme will bring together 16 students who will spend two weeks at a biosphere reserves in UAE and Ethiopia, working with each other and the surrounding communities to share best practice and develop reports to be used by Unesco staff working in the field of sustainability,” he says.

Arton feels strongly about empowerment through education. He refers to Nelson Mandela’s famous quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change world”, and further mentions that by investing in education, we achieve sustainable development, poverty eradication, equity and inclusiveness.

“We nurture good morals in young people and the sense of responsibility. Education holds the key to productivity and sustainable growth, improves health and nutrition, income and livelihoods. I believe this is something that more and more high net worth individuals are starting to realise and we see it by the interest and support that the activity of the Global Citizenship Foundation has received since its inception at the end of last year.”

Arton’s company is further vested in five pillars which provide a solid foundation of values that empowers them to continuously grow and develop. He refers to these five pillars as Integrity, Innovation, Results, Client First and Global Stewardship.

“Every act of our global performance reflects a shared belief in openness, transparency and confidentiality. We apply prodigious strategising techniques, insight, creativity and expertise to deliver solutions that meet our clients’ unique and always evolving complex needs.

“Our team is committed to delivering excellence – from building strong and prosperous long-term relationships to achieve unparalleled financial outcomes. Our personalised, premium service provides an unmatched experience based on a deep understanding of each client’s needs and ambitions. We lead and manage our organisation with the avowed purpose of making the world a better place,” he says.

Working together to make the world a better place is one of the core values Arton and his company keep at heart and for him, there is a process that can be followed to achieve this.

“By being curious, compassionate and responsible. The era of globalisation we are living in has changed so much the ways that people and businesses interact.

While we must adapt to such changes, at Arton we believe that we must not contain our zest, as it is the key to the giant leap.

In times when borders are no longer boundaries and human mobility escalates, we reach out to people and we welcome and appreciate their personality and individuality, as we must nurture humanity.

At the same time, we must act responsibly when we have the tools, the means and the desire to bring about positive change by sustainable development and by making people believe in making a difference by being the difference,” Arton told Leadership magazine..

When speaking on the topic of leadership, Arton believes leaders are born leaders. According to him, there is something that you can pick up in these individuals from early childhood, which manifests in their behaviour and reveals what he or she will become through their interaction with others.

“Of course, society helps in shaping leaders and education is an important element of a leader’s formation. However, some of the characteristics of a leader are not taught at school: such as being open-minded, accepting criticism, listening to others, learning from failure, sharing one’s success with others.”

Arton says great leaders are defined by their capacity to surround themselves with people who exceed them in skills.

“I am one of those who can identify and read people’s strongest points in a short period of time and I approach them to join my team,” says Arton.

He concludes that when it comes to success – or what some may term success, as this is but a path to a greater goal to him – one of his basic and most fundamental reasons for being where is today is believing in his dreams.

“I never stopped visualising where I want to be personally or to bring my team or company. Most importantly, I never allowed anyone to convince me that it is impossible.”

Michael Meiring

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