Moving to a role in Dubai hasn’t always been the safest option in recent years, with a lot of international banks scaling back in the region, but the largest international financial centre in the Middle East has been consistently successful in increasing headcount while more developed countries have scaled back.
There are now 15,600 people working in the Dubai International Financial Centre, an increase of 11% on the number in 2012. 1,600 jobs have been created over the past 12 months, despite announcements of job cuts within most of the international institutions in the region, as over 1,000 new companies have flocked to Dubai.
Those firms engaging in expansion are not the bulge bracket banks, but the likes of Wells Fargo, Napier Park Global Capital, Carnegie Asset Management and Samena Capital, who have all opened offices in the DIFC over the past year.
Still, taking a job in the region can be considered something of a gamble, largely because international firms’ strategy on the Middle East remains in a state of flux. For example, Lazard Asset Management has just hired a team of equities asset managers from ING, following their resignation last week. Lazard had previously closed its office in Dubai. ING, meanwhile, had been one of the few international firms in the region to operate a fully-fledged asset management business, but now its Dubai office will remain as a sales office.
Similarly, UBS had continued to build its MENA operation while cutting back elsewhere in the world, but its most recent accounts show an 8% drop in headcount in the region during 2013. Back in 2008, most global investment banks shifted their top people to Dubai, only to relocate them back to London and New York following a deal drought.
The growth has come from regional companies outside of the DIFC – First Gulf Bank announced plans this week to hire 30 investment bankers in 2014, while regional firm Arqaam Capital is expanding into Saudi Arabia, following a period recruiting for its Dubai office.
The fact remains, however, that within the confines of the DIFC the past two years have seen an additional 3,600 people employed, an impressive feat during a time when most financial centres were shrinking.
Europe remains the primary source of companies in the DIFC, comprising 34% of the total, followed by the Middle East (29%), North America (15%), Asia (12%), while 10% of firms are from elsewhere in the world.