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Seven finance firms looking to expand in the MENA region

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If you want to find a new position in the Middle East and Africa these days, it’s worth looking beyond the bulge bracket investment banks. While many have conceded that the worst is over and large investment banks will stop cutting in in region, few are talking up expansion plans.

It’s worth, therefore, looking a little off the beaten track. Here are eight firms that have been talking up expansion – not always in the sexiest sectors of finance, however.

1. First Gulf Bank

Since taking on Simon Penney, former CEO of RBS in MENA, as head of its wholesale banking operation, First Gulf Bank has been the subject of much speculation regarding a potentially aggressive expansion of its investment bank among headhunters in the region. In September, it named Steve Perry, formerly of Standard Chartered, as head of its head of debt markets and he is expected to be one of many senior investment bankers hired in the coming months.

2. Bank of Montreal

Abu Dhabi this year posited itself as a second major finance hub in the UAE, competing with Dubai as a location to house international financial services companies. One of the first firms to make a commitment to Abu Dhabi is Bank of Montreal, which has the auspicious title of Canada’s fourth largest bank. It plans to use the emirate as a hub from which to expand its investment banking business – in other words, hire for Abu Dhabi and then have its bankers fly out to other countries in the Middle East.

3. Exotix

When Exotix hired Philip Southwell as its new Dubai-based CEO in July, it was – he told us – the start of a global expansion plan. Since then, it’s started to come good on the promise – most recently bolstering its Africa-focused equities team with the hire of Ali Khalpey as head of equities and three other hires across research, sales and trading. This, said Khalpey, is the start of an expansion plan in the division across “London, New York and Dubai”.

4. PwC

Professional services firms are no strangers to large hiring announcements, but these generally don’t apply to the MENA region. PwC, however, is in the midst of a recruitment drive that will see 1,000 additional staff added over the few years across financial services, telcos and energy.

5. HSBC

HSBC has been quick to point to the reason why it’s remained top of the debt capital markets investment-banking league tables in the Middle East – it’s commitment to having a significant number of quality people on the ground. However, its current focus in the region is compliance, however, with both recruiters and vacancies on its own website pointing to a focus on the middle office in the region.

6. Qatar National Bank

There are a number of reasons for international investment bankers to consider a move to Qatar – its sovereign wealth funds hiring spree, Credit Suisse’s expansion in the country and the desire of QInvest to build its wholesale banking business. However, QNB has been quietly been building its retail operations. Senior roles like head of finance, head of product analysis, head of compliance and senior economist are nestled among a host of other opportunities in areas like treasury and sales.

7. National Bank of Abu Dhabi

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi has been successfully luring bankers from international organisations into its wealth management and wholesale banking divisions this year, but the current expansion strategy is focused outside of the Middle East. Alex Thursby, its CEO who joined in July, has been hiring for the head office in advance of an international expansion that has recently been announced – Abu Dhabi, Mumbai, Lagos, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, Paris and Washington DC.

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