Optimism about the financial services job market in the Middle East has been hard to come by in recent years. International investment banks have been pulling out of the region in the wake of the continuing tiny fee pool, large regional players have been licking their wounds after the financial crisis and retail and corporate banking institutions’ recruitment focus has been on international markets.
However, it’s worth examining those firms who have started to turn things around, and which could be looking to expand in the coming 12 months. Here’s our pick of the bunch.
1. Shuaa Capital
This is not a typo. Shuaa, the bank that epitomised the boom and bust of the Middle East investment banking sector and cut nearly 40% of its employees, looks like it’s positioning for growth again. It’s bringing in new blood at the top following the departure of its CEO Colin Macdonald in December, notably Karim Schoeib as its head of investment banking and Amer Khan who will take the reins of its asset management division. It will make further senior appointments shortly, it says, and this usually means some hiring lower down the ranks.
2. EFG Hermes
This time last year, EFG Hermes was attempting to put the final touches to a joint venture with Qatari investment bank, QInvest. It fell through in March, and the bank then announced a series of asset sales and cost-cutting measures in May. While it continues to exit what it deems non-core businesses, a 38% rise in profits to Q3 last year shows that the outlook is improving and it says that it will continue to expand its GCC presence, particularly in the UAE. Karim Awad’s recent elevation from CEO of EFG’s investment bank to co-CEO of the group suggests that investment banking will take priority in 2014.
3. Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB)
If you want read an account of ADCB’s fall from grace after the financial crisis, and subsequent efforts to get back on track without firing any staff, check out the recent case study by INSEAD professor, Stephen Mezias. It’s now in growth mode again, expanding in areas many would consider unglamorous like credit cards, SME lending and domestic retail banking, but will likely hire nonetheless.
While most brokers in the Middle East have been cutting back in the wake of slumping equity trading volumes, Menacorp has been positioning for the uptick. During the course of last year it increased its sales team to 40 people, the largest in the region, and has just launched a new institutional desk. Expect more hires to follow.
5. The National Bank of Abu Dhabi
The National Bank of Abu Dhabi has been focused on building its international presence in the past 12 months, at the expense of its domestic operations. However, after Dubai secured the Expo 2020 in December, the bank promised to create 900 jobs this year due to the “huge opportunities” created by the event.
6. Julius Baer
Some international wealth managers have pulled back from the Middle East and Julius Baer has been capitalising on this. It agreed to acquire assets from Bank of America and Merrill Lynch last year, and has earmarked plans to open offices in Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Istanbul. The Middle East is viewed a key growth region for the private bank.