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Expat executives in Qatar being ousted by young locals

Tamim Al-Kuwari

Tamim Al-Kuwari

The life of the expat banking executive in Qatar seems to be going the way of the dinosaur as a new breed of highly-skilled locals with bulge bracket experience make their way to the top ranks.

Yesterday, The First Investor (TFI), the investment banking arm of Qatari firm Barwa Bank, installed Khalid al Subeai, 32, as its new chief executive. The Qatari national joined the firm in November, initially as deputy chief executive, having previously worked as Qatar country manager for Morgan Stanley.

The announcement from the bank doesn’t mention David Clarke, TFI’s current chief executive, but sources tell us he’s set to leave the firm to “pursue new career opportunities”.

Succession planning – the desire to replace expat talent with highly-skilled locals – has always been on the agenda in places like Qatar and the UAE, but there appears to be a new-found appetite from high-flying Qatari nationals to move into senior positions at regional institutions.

Al Subeai’s rise to CEO of TFI is eerily reminiscent of Qatari banker Tamim Hamad Al Kawari. The 38-year-old quit his role as Qatar CEO of Goldman Sachs to take the job as deputy chief executive QInvest in October. By November he had been appointed CEO and Shahzad Shahbaz, who had the top job since 2008, resigned.

Both Al Kawari and Al Subeai have a background in the Qatari public sector – the former at Qatar Gas Transport Company and the latter at Qatar Petroleum – before joining Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley respectively. Al Kawari was previously at Qatar National Bank.

Government-owned banks are keen to empower young, skilled Qataris into taking senior positions, said Peter Greaves, managing director of IES HR Consultants.

“Privately owned banks in Qatar still favour expats with a wealth of investment banking experience, but the government-owned institutions are promoting nationals into senior positions, often at the expense of foreign executives,” he said.

In the case of QInvest and TFI, there seem to be few qualms about sacrificing a vast array of experience for younger Qataris.

TFI’s Clarke is Brit who has spent much of his 27-year career as an expat. He has worked for British Telecom in Singapore, Deutsche Bank in Tokyo, Arab Banking Corporation in Saudi Arabia and then Qatar for the past four years.  Shahbaz has 25 years’ experience, having previously headed investment banking for EMEA at Bank of America, and moved to the Middle East in 2006 to take the role of CEO for Emirates NBD before joining QInvest.

QInvest and Barwa Bank didn’t respond to requests for comment. Neither Clarke nor Shahbaz could be reached.

Comments (2)

Comments
  1. I think this looks promising, as young talented nationals are being given a chance to prove themselves. From previous experience, I know that many banks in Qatar employ locals to satisfy requirements of the government’s vision of employing more Qataris. But the actual fact is that, Qataris are being employed and hold senior management positions, expats are the individuals who actually run the show behind curtains.

  2. @ Mark: If you’re privvy to the expats running the show behind the curtain thing, we’d be keen to hear from you. editor@efinancialcareers.com

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