The influence of British Pakistanis is difficult to quantify. The economic changes are the most visible signs for most people but many people also expend considerable energy and vitality in helping to create a better life for everyone through their social, communal and cultural activities. Such work is invaluable but often invisible to the majority.
Nevertheless there are many selfless individuals pursuing these interests recognising the greater good shall be served by their endeavours. One such person is Professor Azeem Ibrahim, who has done exceptional extra work in the promotion and development of British as well as Pakistani community. Aside from his exemplary work for the community, he is also one of the most successful businessmen in the UK.
Glasgow-born Azeem Ibrahim with parental roots in Pakistan is an inspiration and an encouragement to younger British Pakistanis. He has been described by his peers as a brilliant young scholar, financial wizard and gifted entrepreneur. A self-made multi-millionaire and one of the wealthiest young people in the UK, Azeem was inaugurated onto The Sunday Times Scots’ Rich List at the age of just 31, with an estimated fortune of US$106m.
In 2007, Azeem became the youngest member of the Bank of Scotland Asian Power 100 produced by Carter Anderson, who described him as one of the most influential and highest-achieving people in Britain. The same year Azeem was included in the Observer Courvoisier Future 500 – a definitive list of the nation’s most forward-thinking and brightest young innovators.
In December 2007, a Scottish Parliament motion signed by a number of MSPs congratulated Azeem and his contribution to the country and in April 2008 Azeem accepted the Lloyds TSB and KPMG Business and Commerce Excellence Jewel Award.
His achievements have attracted considerable recognition around the globe and over the last few years Azeem has met and advised a number of world leaders, including the Prime Minister of Turkey and leaders in the Gulf States.
It all began in 1997, when Azeem launched his own IT consultancy. In 2001, he began a similar but larger operation in Europe. Three years later, he set up his own insurance corporation focusing on the niche maritime-transportation market.
Later in 2004, Azeem established the European Commerce and Mercantile Bank, a private offshore concern specialising in accounts for commodity traders. Valued at over $100m by independent auditors, the bank has offices in Sweden and Dubai’s Emirates Tower.
ECM Bank’s parent company, ECM Holdings, also includes ECM Asset Management, a Swedish-registered credit union building society, and ECM Clearing House, a Panamanian-registered financial clearing house licensed to trade in currencies, precious metals and commodities.
Azeem Ibrahim’s most recent and ambitious venture is ECM Investment, a private equity hedge fund that has outperformed all the other big institutions, netting over 40% a year on investment. Azeem aims to target high-net-worth individuals, particularly in the Gulf and sovereign funds, with a view to taking his fund to 1 billion pounds within the next five years. Backed by a start-up team awash with Oxbridge and Ivy League MBAs and PhDs, the fund has succeeded despite world credit problems.
A keen scholar and former member of the elite Parachute Regiment, Azeem is said to bring his academic mind, strategic thinking and love of military planning to his business dealings.
Azeem’s former professors refer to him as a ‘highly intellectual scholar’ and a ‘first-class critical thinker’. He obtained an MBA and an M.Sc.(Econ) in Strategic Studies, then read for a PhD at the University of Cambridge on Geopolitical Strategy. Azeem also served as a Research Scholar on the International Security Program at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University.
Azeem was also elected a Full Member of the Institute of Directors in 2004 and is an active member of several US and UK think-tanks and academic institutions. These include the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the Royal Institute of International Affairs and the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. He is regularly invited to deliver papers in front of these bodies and attend meetings to discuss strategic problems with academics, politicians, diplomats and foreign-affairs analysts.
Azeem also sits alongside former UK Defence Chiefs as a Director and Board Member of the UKNDA - United Kingdom National Defence Association - which operates to improve the position of the armed forces in government circles.
In 2008 Azeem also became a member of the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy’s Dean’s International Council - a prestigious group of specialists from around the world with substantive experience in government and the private sector including former Prime Ministers, Presidents, Ambassadors and Diplomats. The Council meets twice a year and acts as an advisory group for new policy initiatives and resource development for governments around the globe.
Much of Azeem's time is now devoted to his own charities. The Benevolence Fund sponsors high-achieving Bosnian students onto postgraduate education in Europe, which they use to rebuild their communities. In developing countries, PURIFI aims to provide clean drinking water. Closer to home, Azeem established Unity Family Services, a Scottish marriage counselling and family solutions charity. The Ibrahim Foundation, his most recent venture, was established in 2008 and endowed with his own holdings. It will provide funding to pioneering community projects after inviting applications from the public.
For seven years until early 2006, Azeem was a reservist in the IV Battalion Parachute Regiment – the British army's elite airborne infantry reserve where they are trained to be inserted by parachute behind enemy lines at short notice. A citizen of both the US and the UK, he is a fitness fanatic keen on marathon and fell running, and speaks four languages.