The secret jobs created by bankers moving out of the mainstream

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If you’re an investment banker looking for a job in the Middle East, don’t target the big banks. While most have scaled back, or are undertaking a few replacement hires, most have little appetite to expand. Instead, you’d be better off following senior bankers into their new ventures.

Over the past few months, prominent investment bankers in the Middle East have either gone it alone, moved to a boutique operation, or taken decided to gravitate towards local institutions – and this is creating jobs.

Most recently, Ali Ashgar, Lazard’s most senior banker in the Middle East, has left and is starting his own emerging markets boutique, Emerging Circle. Headhunters suggest that if he follows the pattern of others starting their own operation, there should be some opportunities, particularly for those who have worked with him in the past.

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May Nasrallah, the former head of investment banking for the MENA region at Morgan Stanley after 15 years in 2009 to form deNovo Corporate Advisors and who snapped up former colleagues and employees of other bulge bracket banks for the new venture. Then there’s Zaid Maleh, who set up Dach Advisory after years working for international investment banks and has been hiring this year, and Bradford Gibbs who left Morgan Stanley for private equity firm Mara Group and is looking to bolster its ranks.

“A lot of people are cashing in their chips, going it alone and leveraging their contacts to both drum up business and bring the right people on board,” said one headhunter working with boutique firms in the region. “It’s a real source of job opportunities for those coming to the region, or hoping to stick around after the big banks pulled back.”

Meanwhile, Philip Southwell, a former managing director of Bank of America Merrill Lynch in the Middle East, signed up as CEO of boutique operation Exotix in July and is stepping up efforts to expand.

Then there’s the local banks – while international investment banks have been pulling back, regional institutions have been taking the opportunity to hire, both locally and in foreign climes.

Following the recruitment of Simon Penney as head of wholesale banking from Royal Bank of Scotland in June, First Gulf Bank has unveiled plans to hire investment bankers across M&A, debt capital markets and equity capital markets. And National Bank of Abu Dhabi, which recently installed new CEO Alex Thursby, is set to embark on an aggressive international recruitment spree, according to headhunters.

“Job-seekers need to work harder to find new opportunities currently, and most are emerging in unexpected locations,” said the headhunter.