Despite being a hub for international banks in the Middle East, the UAE still offers fairly conventional career opportunities. Unlike more developed financial centres, which boast derivative markets and niche jobs for coverage bankers, the Middle East instead offers plentiful opportunities in more conventional spaces like wealth management, corporate banking and direct investment.
However, nestled among these opportunities are more unusual career options for finance professionals willing to move to the frontier market. Here, according to conversations with local hiring managers and recruiters, are the more unconventional functions offering jobs right now.
In March, Dubai’s financial regulator proposed new rules to make it easier for private equity firms and hedge funds to set up in the region. Aside from a few distribution offices, Dubai’s attempts to foster a hedge fund industry in the region had been spluttering along.
More recently, however, boutique operations like Jadara Capital Partners and VY Capital Management have set up an office in Dubai. This is primarily because of its location – as a central hub between Europe, the Middle East and Africa, but it shows that the alternatives sector is picking up in the region.
Bob Diamond’s involvement with private equity firm Atlas Mara is a high-profile example of senior financiers talking up opportunities on the continent and, by and large, Dubai has been benefitting from a raft of new opportunities. Mara Group, which hired former Morgan Stanley MD Bradford Gibbs for its UAE office in August last year, was already talking up expansion of its Middle Eastern operation before Diamond came on board, while other private equity firms, like Abraaj Capital, are also exploring investment opportunities in Africa from their Dubai office.
Then there are the jobs for bankers – Barclays, for example, is continuing to build up its Dubai office and one of the major catalysts is the corporate banking opportunities available in Africa.
This may be a one off, but a commodity trading house in Dubai is looking for a sales-trader for their dairy trading desk, which includes sales of products like milk and ice cream to clients across the Middle East. What it does demonstrate, however, is an increase of soft commodity trading jobs across the Gulf region, something that could provide some welcome opportunities for the commodity professionals in bulge bracket banks who may soon find themselves out of work. There has been a proliferation of agri trading jobs in recent weeks, according to recruiters, including vegetable oils, oilseeds, wheat and corn.
This is not an unusual job per se, but after years of zero recruitment activity and deal volumes in the doldrums across equity capital markets in the Middle East, the market has picked up in 2014. According to data from Thomson Reuters, ECM underwriting fees swelled by 187% on the first half of 2013 for the first six months of this year, to $99.4m. This surpasses the fee pool of debt capital markets in the region, which tumbled by nearly 40% to $64.5m.
According to headhunters, this has not yet transferred across to a surge in hiring, but there is a recognition that teams need to be rebuilt. The result, they say, is a re-start of graduate recruitment among local and international banks for their capital markets team and a desire to recruit at managing director level.