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Big bucks draws talent to Qatar

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Is more money and benefits enough to lure work talent from other cities including Dubai?

October 11, 2012 8:54 by



Qatar is luring high-profile bankers away from foreign firms by offering better pay and prospects, as the cash-rich Gulf state builds the talent needed to expand its financial footprint across the region.

The trend is a reversal of the traditional pattern in emerging markets, where high-profile multinationals have long been able to cherrypick the best executives for their operations.

Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have lost their two top Qatar executives to local Qatari firms, financial industry sources said this week. A slew of other bankers has moved to the tiny Gulf state in the past year as Western giants scale back their presence in the region to cut costs.

“Bankers today are faced with a tricky question. Do they stick to their risky jobs at gold-plated firms, or move to regional firms in places like Qatar where there is a bit more security and in most cases more money?” said a seniorDubai-based banker.

“I am thinking they are choosing the latter option in most cases,” added the banker, who declined to be named because of the commercial sensitivity of the issue.

The recruitments are occurring as gas-rich Qatar, home to sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority(QIA), spends billions of dollars on overseas acquisitions and invests in poorer Arab states partly to boost its political clout.

With an investment appetite of about $30 billion a year, QIA has picked up stakes in high-profile Western assets such as miner Xstrata, automakers Volkswagen and Porsche, and supermarket chain Harrods.

Meanwhile, Qatar is expanding in the Arab world’s banking sector mainly through Qatar National Bank (QNB), the largest lender in the Gulf state with a stock market value of about $26 billion. The bank is currently in talks to buy the Egyptian arm of French lender Societe Generale.

QNB has been snapping up stakes in small banks in the region, and this year raised its holdings in Abu Dhabi’s Commercial Bank International and Iraq’s Mansour Bank.

GOOD TIMING

Managing and developing this growing network of investments requires expertise. But the timing for Qatar appears almost perfect: it is seeking expertise at a time when foreign banks are cutting investment banking jobs in theMiddle East as part of global cost reduction plans, and because they face tough competition for a limited amount of mergers and acquisitions business in the region.

“Investment banking jobs in the West have been at a standstill for some time. Local Qatari bankers are settling with local banks to get real experience in the local market, and due to the lack of opportunities with international names,” said R. Seetharaman, CEO of Qatar’s Doha Bank.

Institutions including Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and Japan’s Nomura Holdings have reduced jobs in their investment banking teams for the region in recent weeks.



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