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From Taxi Driver to Islamic Super Managing Director

Our Managing Director Talal Yassine OAM was interviewed by ‘Fireside’ (Mercer Magazine) in November 2019 about all things Islamic Super & Investments.

The Fireside Magazine is all about telling business stories differently. It brings together industry thought leaders, change-makers and problem-solvers who have the courage to try something new. It profiles the stories you haven’t read elsewhere.

Talal speaks about his migration to Australia at the age of 4, as well as some of the most interesting and valuable lessons he gained driving a taxi. He also talks about his motivation to establish Crescent Wealth- Australia’s only APRA regulated Islamic super fund.

Here is the transcript of the interview which can also be downloaded below.

We hope you enjoy reading this and consider switching to Crescent Wealth Super.

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT YOUR BIRTH COUNTRY?

I came to Australia at the age of four, so there isn’t much of a memory of the troubles my country of birth (Lebanon) was facing. I do recall, however, growing up with my mother constantly being cautious and fearful of her new “normal”.

She was forced to adjust to the unknown to offer us stability, hope and normality with absolutely no anchor point. My mother and father travelled from a village to live in a city many thousands of kilometres away, with no language skills (neither ever went to school), financial resources or networks. But they made it. We brought a huge amount of culture with us; Lebanese are very hospitable and love food. This was strange for our neighbours at first, but once food was passed over the garden fence, we’d made lifelong friends.

I sometimes wonder what limits my parents would’ve had to reach or what they experienced in order for them to decide to leave the safety net of their family, their known surroundings, environment and people to come to the unknown of Australia. I guess only knowing – hoping – it would be safer than the civil war situation gave them comfort and guided their decision. There are times I think we take their sacrifice for granted.

YOU HAVE A LAW DEGREE AND DROVE A TAXI AT SOME POINT. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

Like many university students, historically and today, I had to support myself and my family (my parents and brothers and sisters at the time). So apart from my work experience at a local law firm, I drove a taxi (Number 2275!), worked at a service station, delivered flowers, painted fences and cleaned cars – whatever I needed to do to be able to meet our weekly bills.

On the other hand, our family highly valued education. At the time, I was not sure 100 per cent why, except that it gave you a better job and life. But today, I think education does much more than that; it allows one the opportunity to engage in society to the fullest and to provide access to success on many different levels.

I ended up having four degrees, coupled with being an Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University and a Professorial Fellow at the Australian National University.

WHAT LESSONS DID YOU LEARN FROM THOSE YEARS BEHIND THE WHEEL WHICH YOU APPLY TO YOUR BUSINESS LIFE TODAY?

Empathy.

You meet an array of personalities driving a taxi – the young and naïve, the travellers, the corporates and of course elders – sometimes just wanting to chat to someone and at times it really forces you to listen to them and try to understand without any bias what they are going through. In the beginning, I tried to offer advice, but as time went on, I realised that some just needed to talk it out – some happy, some sad issues. It wasn’t until later in my business life that I realised what an asset it was. Having the ability to consciously stop speaking (and for anyone that knows me, I do love a great chat) and allow time to actually listen to what is being said (and not said) so that I understand their position and then respond accordingly is invaluable, and it’s something that I use on a daily basis.

The other lesson is in negotiation.

I worked in many jobs for many years, and at different hours, there were many times where I’d have the rowdy, the self-entitled, the stressed or simply checked out. It forced me to deal with them and their unpredictable personalities and understand their triggers in order to keep them calm and avoid potential conflicts. I can and do translate this to business and boardroom negotiations, as sometimes one is dealing with the same behaviours.

WHAT ARE THE SPECIFIC WEALTH MANAGEMENT NEEDS OF THE ISLAMIC COMMUNITY THAT INSPIRED YOU TO ESTABLISH CRESCENT WEALTH?

To retire with dignity.

We have a proud tradition of looking after one another. If you lose your job, are elderly, have an illness or disability, traditionally we find it’s our family that rallies around us and offers the support needed to get back up.

The purpose and drive to set up Crescent Wealth is to address this issue. Offering a retirement fund that aligns with the Islamic investment principles is fundamental to increase awareness within the Muslim communities.

We want to educate our communities on the importance of having a sufficient retirement plan. In the process of offering the Crescent Wealth super fund, we are experiencing a higher level of engagement and so many new members that are not of the Islamic faith.

Those individuals want to avoid their retirement funds being invested in harmful industries such as the gambling, alcohol, weaponry, interest and tobacco industries.

We hope you enjoy reading this and consider switching to Crescent Wealth Super.

 

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