Dubai may be increasing in popularity among expat financial services professionals, but despite all the hype around Qatar’s growth prospects, it remains a hard sell.
“Expat financial services professionals are still not convinced by the career opportunities available in Qatar,” said Barbara van Meir, managing director of Middle East executive search firm Nogel & Noor. “Most of the work on offer tends to be government-related, and the international firms that operate in the region tend to maintain their hubs in Dubai.”
Credit Suisse is one international firm that is making a commitment to Qatar by transferring bankers to the Peninsula from its Dubai Middle East headquarters. However, a report on Reuters last week suggests that the bank is having a hard time convincing people to make the switch.
"I am not sure how well that plan is working, at least on the investment banking side. They haven't been able to move any of the senior bankers to Doha so far,” a banking source told the newswire.
Qatar is arguably more reliant on expats than Dubai. Of the 10,650 people working in the financial sector, 76% are non-Qataris, according to the Qatar Statistics Authority.
The biggest recruiters are the local institutions. Qatar National Bank has been on a recruitment drive for the past six months including within its capital markets division, QInvest is expected to hire following its acquisition of EFG Hermes and the $115bn Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has been eager to hire expat talent for the past two years.
One source close to the QIA, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to talk to the media, said that their tactic had been to recruit expats from outside of the region, rather than convince people to move from other Middle Eastern financial centres.
“Shrinking opportunities in Western locations has made it easier to attract leaders from bulge bracket banks, and then they were able to use their network to bring in talent lower down the career ladder,” he said. “Qatar is not for everyone – if you have a family and want to settle down the lifestyle is good. Dubai is more like a Club 18-30 holiday.”
Qatar’s growth prospects are considered an attractive proposition, he said. Over the next ten years, the Peninsula is expected to invest over $200bn in infrastructure, something that will prove attractive to both fund managers and banks keen to tap into the development projects.
“The best thing about Qatar is that it’s a small market with huge growth potential, so anyone who makes the move now has the chance to expose themselves to the people and institutions that matter,” argues the QIA employee.
Nonetheless, Qatar is not the preferred choice. Peter Greaves, Managing Director of IES HR Consultants in Dubai said: “The number one choice for expat bankers is Dubai, followed by Abu Dhabi then Qatar.”