Where you can achieve double-digit pay rises in the Middle East financial sector

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Financial services recruiters in the Middle East are not only competing for candidates with local rivals, but – because of the tendency to look internationally for candidates – they’re also trying having to increase salaries to compete with firms in Asia, the UK and the U.S.

Traditionally, financial services firms in the Middle East would have offered similar salaries to Western locations and cited the tax-free income as a selling point. However, a combination of dissatisfaction over bonuses and an emergence of counteroffers has fuelled rapid salary inflation over the past few months.

Not all roles are created equal, however, and only a select few are offering pay rises that go into the double-digits. Here, according to recruiters in the region, are the places to get paid.

1. Banks’ in-house recruitment teams

Ironically, as banks in the region start to expand – and refuse to pay expensive recruiter fees – one of the hottest jobs in the Middle East is within banks’ in-house recruitment teams. Headhunters suggest that because banks are sifting through hundreds (if not thousands) of CVs from across the world, there’s a need to increase in-house recruitment resources.

A regional recruitment manager can expect $95-116k in the Middle East, according to recruiters Robert Half, rising to $118-170k for a head of recruitment position.

2. Senior private equity professionals

Sovereign wealth funds and other regional direct investment firms want to hire the same types of people – seasoned private equity professionals with an Ivy League education and great deal experience. Unfortunately, they’re still unwilling to buy out carried interest packages, so are simply inflating salaries and occasionally offering guaranteed bonuses, says James Wakefield, director of headhunters Cobalt Abu Dhabi.

“While investment banking recruitment has remained muted, private equity has really taken off. With the large sovereign funds inflexible about buying out carried interest, they have instead had to raise compensation packages – often by double figures,” he says.

3. Transaction services

Investment banking has been picking up, but it’s still the ‘boring’ areas of finance that dominate in the Middle East. Regional banks are big players in transaction services, but the international firms like Deutsche bank and Citi have also been hiring to compete in the Middle East. The result has been a shortage of talent, particularly at the senior end where it’s possible to earn a hefty $457k at the senior end and $278k in sales positions.

4. Credit risk

The last time retail and commercial banks were liberally handing out loans, a bubble was created in Dubai that the emirate is still recovering from. Now, with increasing competition, a growing property market and increased demand from corporates for funding, banks in the region are ensuring they do it the right way. This means getting their credit risk models right, which has resulted in a need to bring in people with experience of sophisticated models developed in Western markets, and spiralling pay, says Wakefield.

5. Financial controller

Again, glamorous it isn’t, but like internal audit positions, firms across the Middle East are struggling to recruit financial controllers. Over the past 12 months, salaries have increased from $162k, to an average of $180k, according to recruiters Robert Walters.

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