The first thing you notice about Claudia Pinto are her eyes. They look straight into your soul and they see what lies within. Her no-nonsense approach to life is countered by an inner gentle strength that she brings together in all her efforts, “to make the world better than I found it.” She is passionate about ensuring all she does is geared to this end. In her time in the UAE she took it upon herself to feed hundreds of workers, providing hot, decent, nourishing meals to those who were actually building Dubai, literally, brick by brick. She did this during a time of global crisis, and as a result of her efforts, over 10,000 workers in the city went to bed with full stomachs and the knowledge that they were cared for. The sheer numbers of this non-profit initiative, done under the patronage of the UAE government, broke global records and caught the media attention of global news platforms, including The Guardian. But this is just the tip of the iceberg with this formidable lady.
Claudia studied law in Portugal and loved her work in Europe, advising and guiding clients through their legal journeys. Her unique sensitivity and empathy enabled her to find diplomatic solutions and help them through a plethora of legal issues with ease and, unsurprisingly, she had a legion of clients who were extremely unhappy when she decided to relocate to Dubai and seek new horizons in this land of opportunity. It was a picture of the Burj Al Khalifa that prompted her decision to move here eight years ago and there has been no looking back since then. She has established herself as a global innovator in marketing and negotiations and is one of the leading advisors in the country for those looking to establish a business base in the country.
Her legal knowledge and her passion for making the right connections has positioned her as a singularly effective leader, who is able to advise on matters of business and living and, as in Portugal, she has an impressive roster of international clients to seek her assistance on governance, immigration and compliance issues. She works with business heads and corporates across Europe, Latin America, Africa, the US and the Middle East, bringing to bear her 25 years of relationship management skills to assist and guide investors and entrepreneurs in the delicate work of transacting across cultural, political and geographic borders.
She is currently an ambassador of ‘United For Green’, a foundation that is working towards empowering women to be self-sustainable and independent, and recognized and integrated with the UN. In addition, Claudia belongs to the exclusive Rotary Jumeirah Club, The Abrahamic Business Circle, the World Green Economic Council and she is a member of the Diplomatic Business Club -Business in Heels. Her close ties with the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department gives her access to the more exclusive circles in Dubai which she leverages to the best interests of her clients. She is also part of the Dubai Business Women Council – a forward-thinking organisation which focuses on creating awareness of the contributions made by women in business, in the region, and recognizes the role they play in bringing stability, prosperity, and abundance.
One of Claudia’s main areas of focus is to develop partnerships for projects that are sustainable and in line with the goal of Dubai’s becoming a smart city employing and deploying clean and green energy by 2030. With this aim in mind, she is working with people and organisations to mobilize, coordinate and empower them through her skills and connections to build a cleaner world for all.
How it happened
Claudia was tremendously influenced by her father, Jode Dos Santos Pinto, who was a visionary, and a builder of considerable magnitude in Portugal in the 80s. At his feet, she learned the art of business, negotiating and finding solutions. She speaks of her father with great affection and respect and cites him as the most powerful influence in her life. His loss some years ago was extremely hard for her, but she has chosen to live out his legacy of honesty, transparency and authenticity in all her actions and transactions with the world. It was from him that she learned the art of philanthropy. She recalls the lessons she learned from him with great clarity, one particularly standing out in her mind, “My father launched a huge construction initiative in Portugal and alongside he built a mosque for the residents to cater to their spiritual needs. He was the first in the country to do something like this.” It was an unprecedented move, and she was profoundly impacted by this act of generosity and thoughtfulness. “We have to care for others in meaningful ways,” and Claudia embraced this philosophy wholeheartedly. She continues to live by the principles she imbibed from watching her father and continues his legacy through her own works.
Claudia is also passionate about her daughter and is immensely proud of her. She hopes to pass on to her daughter all that her father taught her and, again, though her daughter she hopes that she will leave the world a better place than she found it.
In addition to her multifarious business skills, Claudia possesses strong intuition. She trained as an NLP practitioner and a life coach, and these facets give an extra polish to her life and work. She is able to work with her heart and her head and brings this to bear in her work life. She is able to see beyond what is being said, to what is actually needed and, in this, lies her unique effectiveness as an advisor and mentor.
The passion for Dubai is palpable when Claudia speaks. She firmly believes in the vision of the Royal Family, “Sheikh Mohammed ibn Rashid Al Maktoum has created the only place in the world that is completely safe for women,” she says with conviction. “Where else do you have a country where women can be equal in business, where there is no harassment and where there is such opportunity for women to thrive professionally. I take my own journey here as a prime example of this.” Certainly, she is living proof of this. She continues to talk about the city and why it is a destination for anyone looking to make a mark in the world. “Anybody who wants to succeed comes to Dubai. It is progressive, modern, has the best facilities in the world and it is one of the key financial capitals on the planet.” Her passion for the city and all it offers makes her determined to take it even further and she utilises her energy, intuition, and passion to ensure those that cross her path find the right opportunities and connections through her extensive database of contacts and know-how. She is an expert on the legalities of setting up in Dubai, a key player in deal brokerages in the region and is eager to ensure that anyone coming to Dubai has a positive experience of its leadership, government and work practices.
This was certainly the experience of the Saudi filmmaker, Abeer Abdullah as she was creating her debut documentary, Trail of Lights. She met with Claudia, who agreed to be part of the team of people who were interviewed from the UAE as part of the celebrations of the Year of Tolerance. Abeer remains a contributor to the causes supported by Claudia to this day, as a result of that meeting and their similar philosophy and vision.
The service angle
While business is Claudia’s forte, her passion remains philanthropy. Through her network she has helped thousands of people find their way, be it through coaching or through advising corporates and investors in giving back to the greater community. She is committed to her role as Head Philanthropy Advisory at MBM investment, under the patronage of HRH Sheikh Marwan Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. In this capacity she guides and channels the organisation in where to best put their energies in order to best serve the community.
She is also Advisor to Humanity International Investment, a unique investment fund that is dedicated to creating positive social impact in African countries. Also spearheaded by Sheikh Marwan bin Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum who is the Chairman, the fund is focused on enabling investments that look at reducing and eradicating poverty via empowering projects. The fund looks at investing in programmes that help communities to help themselves and this actively assists in the development and progress of African nations.
The fund is clear in its goals. “Our focus on poverty eradication is rooted in the belief that every individual has the right to a basic standard of living, and we are committed to playing our part in making this a reality. We believe that investing in poverty eradication projects is not only a moral imperative, but also an economic one, as it creates opportunities for growth and development.”
The Fund hopes to be a model that others can replicate to create positive and meaningful change. Marcus Dukes, the President, oversees the operations of the fund, ensuring that the vision and mission are aligned with well-chosen projects and Aly Ramji, one of the General Partners takes care of investments in Africa and evaluates opportunities. With these two dynamic individuals, Claudia works diligently to oversee programme operations in Africa and enables the communities being served to build up capacities and resilience to better their futures. She is a key player in identifying philanthropic opportunities that make a ‘real difference’. She is of the firm belief that, “Philanthropy can play a vital role in creating positive change in Africa,” and she is proud to be a part of an organization that is committed to this cause. “I am excited about the potential of our philanthropic investments to make a real difference in the lives of people across Africa, and I am committed to ensuring that we continue to invest in initiatives that have a lasting impact on communities.”
Marcus Dukes is also the custodian of an art collection of Han Dynasty artifacts valued at $ 1 billion. Claudia works alongside him in preserving and maintaining this precious heritage collective as she believes in the preservation of the heritage of human creativity so that future generations can enjoy it.
Claudia is a visionary in her philanthropic goals. She lives out her philosophical principles in both big and small things and believes she must walk the talk. She has come a long way since the days she saw her father build a mosque and she feels she has a long way to go yet to achieve all she wants to. And so, gives an entire new spin to the phrase, a woman’s work is never done.