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Senior Middle East reshuffle at UBS raises questions over investment bank

Internal reshuffles at UBS in the Middle East suggest that the bank may be moving away from investment banking in the region and shifting its attention to wealth management.

Anthony Iliya, who was installed as Middle East and North Africa (MENA) chief executive in June 2010, is set to leave the bank to “pursue other interests,”  according to an internal memo. He will be replaced by Geneva-based Ali Janoudi, who was previously head of wealth management for the MENA region, on 1 April.

The replacement of Iliya, a Dubai-based investment banking and asset management veteran who has previously worked at Credit Suisse in Asia, with a wealth management professional in Switzerland is among several reshuffles at the bank in the Middle East. Matthew Odgers, who was named head of its MENA investment bank in March last year, is relocating to London. Omar Al-Salehi, currently vice chairman of the investment bank in the region, is set to assume Odger’s responsibilities.

Earlier this year, UBS lost Hussain Hassan, global head of Islamic structuring based out of Dubai, to J.P. Morgan. The bank pared back its regional equity research team last year, and also relocated Mohamed Sammakia, chief executive for Saudi Arabia, and Chris Niehaus, the head of investment banking for the Middle East, to London in 2011.

UBS insiders said that because Janoudi has responsibility for boosting profits across all of the bank’s activities in the region, the bank isn’t retreating from investment banking. The 10,000 job cuts that UBS announced in October last year were partly the result of UBS’s decision to slim down its investment bank and focus more on private banking.

The Swiss bank is lagging its investment banking competitors in the Middle East. Last year, UBS made just $5m in investment banking revenues, according to figures from Dealogic, finishing 34th in the league tables with 0.7% of the market. In 2011, it was 22nd in the league tables with a 0.8% market share.

“Investment banking has been a dead dog for UBS in the region for a couple of years now,” said one regional headhunter close to the bank. “It’s substantially reducing its risk appetite in the Middle East, aiming to have a much cleaner focus on wealth management.”

Headcount has remained relatively flat at UBS in the MENA region. It currently employs 167 people, down from 176 in September last year.

UBS declined to comment.

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