If you want to work in a financial centre where employment has consistently risen over the past 18 months, look to Dubai. In the first half of 2013, another 1,000 people were employed in the Dubai International Financial Centre – home to the vast majority of global financial services firms in the region.
This is a not insignificant rise of 7% on last year, taking the total numbers employed in the DIFC to 15,000. It’s also scarily in line with 2012, when an additional 2,000 people moved into the region throughout the year. There has, however, been something of a shift.
The days of Dubai being an oasis of growth for international financial services firms are long gone, and most investment banks have cut their teams in the region down to the bare bones until there are some real signs that the fee pool will increase – something reflected by the number of bankers either going it alone or joining local firms. Ziad Awad, for example, who left Bank of America Merrill Lynch, is looking to hire strategy consultants and coaching experts for his new venture Boardroom Metrics Arabia.
Still, 31 new regulated companies signed up to the DIFC, so where are they coming from? Europe, with 36% of the total, still makes up the lion’s share, but it’s a slowly shrinking proportion (down from 37% at the end of 2012). Asian firms, meanwhile, are signing up to Dubai’s financial centre – China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China and Asia Capital Re all signed up in the last six months – and the DIFC is focusing on attracting firms from Arab countries like Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
There are, however, some big brand international firms that have started expanding in Dubai. Wells Fargo, Carnegie Asset Management and LGT Group all opened offices in the financial centre this year.