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Sahag Arslanian


  • Name: Sahag Arslanian
  • Company Name: Arslanian Group
  • Years of Involvement in the Trade: 11
  • Your Age: 34
  • Something additional you would like to share? I am a sporty person, I love to cook and I speak 6 languages including Mandarin and Chinese.


What are your three priorities within the board and how would you approach them?

AWDC should radically break with practices of the past and do a reset. When I joined the board, I realized that any form of change was almost impossible. When asking for accounts and accountability I hit a wall. Very frustrating also bearingin mind that in the beginning, I was the only one who clearly saw that the only way to go ahead was with a change of CEO. His removal will be the starting point to remedy a culture instilled where the trade was not listened to: the way the G7 proposals were imposed is a witness of this malfunctioning. AWDC culture should be rebuilt from the core, and it starts with the top. The single most important job this Board can do is to appoint the right person as AWDC's new CEO, to guide this person, and set the right professional framework in place to ensure optimal operational efficiency. To do so, it should put in place a robust transparent, and professional recruitment process involving independent third parties.

Once this is done, the Board can then strategically see what are the most pressing issues that need to be addressed, how to solve them, and when to act. These are of course, but not limited to, the lack of banking services the industry is facing and its financing need, as well as its fiscal, legal, and reglementary environment.

Apart from that, any future board member of the AWDC should sign a declaration of abstention/neutrality and thereforeabstain from using his/her position for any personal purpose. This speaks for itself, but the past has proven that not everybody has always lived up to that. The whole story of ethical governance and ESG begins in your own garden. 

As representatives of a segment of the market, how would you stay in touch with your constituent's voters?

I find this a wrong question. As if we are now not having contact with the market every single day. This question illustrates the democratic deficiency that gradually widened over the years between the then AWDC former management and the market. The answer is very simple for me. In tier 1 we are in total 39 companies, so we would just establish one WhatsApp group. If something is on anyone’s stomach just shoot. We don’t really need the old system of committees or an “Idea-box”. It’s as simple as that. We can even do polls on WhatsApp when we need to vote for something, a very convenient, fast, and easy tool to use. 

How are you tethered to Antwerp?

I was born and raised in Antwerp and went to schools here, the Lycee Francais d’Anvers, and then the Antwerp International School in Ekeren. I made my friends here, my future wife is Belgian and has appreciated Antwerp’s social life, day and night. My father and our Armenian family moved to Belgium in the 50s and since then have considered Belgium our country. Rebuilding dormant Antwerp however will take a while. This small city in the heart of Europe should recapture the glory it once had. The recent years the diamond trade has been enormously mismanaged.

What are Antwerp’s assets?

Well, first of all: never only rely on your assets as the previous management did. We had many. We lost a few. However, today Antwerp is still the only truly multicultural Diamond Centre: Flemish, Jewish, Indian, African, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, Lebanese, and Armenian. It also used to be the true center of “outside goods”, meaning diamonds were not being distributed by De Beers. Having Bonas tenders in Antwerp is certainly a top asset. The city was also the financial capital of our trade. By the way: in the Rapaport weekly report Dubai is not mentioned as a market, THE market for rough still is Antwerp. There is work on the table to get back to where we were on these two “past assets”. Starting with restoring our position in Africa; the G7 proposals of the previous CEO on single nodes in Antwerp have seriously done damage there. We also don’t want to be the New Amsterdam. Rather than harassing people who want to do business here, we should try to attract people who have left to come back. The introduction of a company tax in the UAE could be a trigger. 

What is the best-kept secrets of Antwerp? 

Haha, the Burgundian lifestyle certainly is. Antwerp has the best cuisine and the best beer: a bolleke Koninck, Belgian mussels, croquettes de crevettes and of course “koffiekoeken” for breakfast. It also has several unbelievable museums which you normally would never find in a city of this size. You can eat history at every corner of every street. I love Antwerp. Now let’s just get back the entrepreneurial spirit that made it great!