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Expats are still turned off by jobs in Qatar


Dubai may be increasing in popularity among expat financial services professionals, but despite all the hype around Qatar’s growth prospects, it remains a hard sell.

“Expat financial services professionals are still not convinced by the career opportunities available in Qatar,” said Barbara van Meir, managing director of Middle East executive search firm Nogel & Noor. “Most of the work on offer tends to be government-related, and the international firms that operate in the region tend to maintain their hubs in Dubai.”

Credit Suisse is one international firm that is making a commitment to Qatar by transferring bankers to the Peninsula from its Dubai Middle East headquarters. However, a report on Reuters last week suggests that the bank is having a hard time convincing people to make the switch.

“I am not sure how well that plan is working, at least on the investment banking side. They haven’t been able to move any of the senior bankers to Doha so far,” a banking source told the newswire.

Qatar is arguably more reliant on expats than Dubai. Of the 10,650 people working in the financial sector, 76% are non-Qataris, according to the Qatar Statistics Authority.

The biggest recruiters are the local institutions. Qatar National Bank has been on a recruitment drive for the past six months including within its capital markets division, QInvest is expected to hire following its acquisition of EFG Hermes and the $115bn Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has been eager to hire expat talent for the past two years.

One source close to the QIA, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to talk to the media, said that their tactic had been to recruit expats from outside of the region, rather than convince people to move from other Middle Eastern financial centres.

“Shrinking opportunities in Western locations has made it easier to attract leaders from bulge bracket banks, and then they were able to use their network to bring in talent lower down the career ladder,” he said. “Qatar is not for everyone – if you have a family and want to settle down the lifestyle is good. Dubai is more like a Club 18-30 holiday.”

Qatar’s growth prospects are considered an attractive proposition, he said. Over the next ten years, the Peninsula is expected to invest over $200bn in infrastructure, something that will prove attractive to both fund managers and banks keen to tap into the development projects.

“The best thing about Qatar is that it’s a small market with huge growth potential, so anyone who makes the move now has the chance to expose themselves to the people and institutions that matter,” argues the QIA employee.

Nonetheless, Qatar is not the preferred choice. Peter Greaves, Managing Director of IES HR Consultants in Dubai said: “The number one choice for expat bankers is Dubai, followed by Abu Dhabi then Qatar.”

Comments (8)

  1. I would think twice about going to Doha Qatar, I spent three years with a local bank, and it was not a pleasant experience. Most employers know that they can get the best candidates for low compensation packages, make sure you negotiate a good package especially as they have allowances on top of a basic salary. Inflation is high, rent is expensive, no career progress opportunities, no social life, weather is too hot on top of humidity. Residency and exit permits are among other problems, when they decide to terminate your contract, it means you have to leave the country within weeks. I prefer dubai as a more attractive destination for work and a good social life

  2. I fully agree with Nick – have worked in banking for 3 years in Doha! Aim for UAE guys!!!!

  3. Agreed. The article furthermore mentions the local entities including QIA, QInvest, and QNB. Why would top talent ever want to work for those firms? Their corporate governance is shackled, their human capital is iffy, they lack vision and strategy, their P&L is hijacked by politics, and the business risk is huge despite their deep pockets. In brief, it is a very bad deal. As far as top talent goes, there will be no substitute for advisory work out of Dubai

  4. Agree the lifestyle my be good but as its a hard sell professionally then it’s hardly surprising that Qatar tends to attract the lower end of quality talent that are prone to put down roots and with no compelling reason or push to move on to a more sophisticated financial environment. From experience this particularly applies in the government institutions e.g. The Regulatory Bodies and so it becomes highly questionable whether the ex-pats are any adding real value.

  5. The life-style is not good either – you have free time but there is nothing to do and no where to go either if you are single or have a family. The relationship between expats and national are more like master and slaves it does not matter how senior and experienced you are. You need an exit permit every time you wish to travel – if you have elderly parents outside or emergency you need to travel and if it is a holiday and weekend you wont be able to travel. Furthermore, talent is not appreciated but rather frowned upon, there is no career path. If you work in a government institution you are not allowed take leave more than three times a year. On top of all, if you mid-level in your career and worked in Qatar would be quite challenging to get another job in Europe.

  6. Agree with all comments. I have lived in Bahrain, Dubai and now Doha. This is by far the worst of the three. There is no vision, other than spending huge amounts of money on projects that may never be completed. No career prospects for an expat, it’s more expensve than Dubai and there is little to do outside work. I won’t be staying longer than necessary.

  7. An interesting article that I can relate to, I worked for the biggest local bank in Doha for 3 years, it was more than enough, it was a shock at first, different culture and management style. There is no such thing as career progress or development, they do not sponsor employees to study any professional qualifications. Qatar is a tiny market in comparison to Dubai and Bahrain, let’s not talk about the giant Saudi Arabia, I would stay away from local banks, most of them are managed by local bankers who in fact, have just a title but the hard work is done by expats. I agree that there’s no vision and my advice to any expat to negotiate a good contract that can cover all the expenses, HR will try to give you the bare minimum, so do your research before, you can’t do much about exit permits and the rest of the bureaucracy and immigration rules, it’s a tough environment in Qatar even though it’s tax free, but you will have to make many sacrifices like leaving family and friends to live in an extremely hot and humid environment, with not much to do socially during free time. Do not believe the hype ….

  8. I agree with all of the above comments and many more negatives …..

    Guys do not be fooled by the hype that you read about how great the Qatar economy is and etc …

    This is really NOT an expat friendly country ….

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