Investment bankers in the Middle East are still facing an uphill struggle to boost the volumes in the region. Despite a 19% uptick in the fee pot last year, and positive sentiments around equity capital markets and M&A activity, deal volumes are still on the decline, albeit by a mere 3%.
International names are still dominating the league tables – HSBC topped the rankings in both ECM and DCM, while Lazard and Citigroup were among the top performing banks in M&A. However, most agree that the race is wide open – while a number of global firms continue to cut back, regional investment banks are trying to grab a bigger slice of the pie and hiring top people.
Which firms are likely to hire in 2015? Based on public hiring announcements and conversations with recruiters in the region, here’s our pick.
1. First Gulf Bank
Few regional banks have been as successful at hiring big hitters from international investment banks as First Gulf Bank (FGB). Over the past two years it brought in Steve Perry as head of debt origination and syndications from Standard Chartered and Simon Penney, the former chief executive of RBS in the Gulf, as head of wholesale banking. Both new hires were followed by a big recruitment drive in its investment bank, so more junior bankers should be excited by its decision to bring in former Goldman Sachs banker Giuseppe Ruggiero as head of debt capital markets.
2. The National Bank of Abu Dhabi
Again changes at the top of the investment bank suggest that an expansion could already be on the cards at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD). Omar Mehanna, who most recently worked at HSBC joint venture Saudi British Bank but also spent time at Bank of America, has just joined to lead its merchant banking division. NBAD has suggested in the past that its investment banking division would expand, but has yet to see significant revenue increases to justify an expansion. This could change in 2015.
3. J.P. Morgan
J.P. Morgan has dominated the investment banking league tables globally, but has failed to replicate this form in the MENA region. Recruits at the tail end of 2014, when it brought in Majed Al Mesmari, previously at Rothschild, as head of investment banking coverage in the UAE are now being complimented by recruits further down the career ladder, with associates in particular demand according to recruiters we spoke to.
Most associate Barclays’ new strategy, announced in 2014, with contraction, but the bank continues to expand in certain division. A focus on bankers who can develop long-term relationships with clients with little capital investment has ensured that – in the Gulf at least – both corporate bankers and wealth managers are being hired by the British bank. However, Barclays is also expanding its investment bank – the recruitment of former Goldman Sachs exec Khaled Eldabag as co-head of investment banking in the MENA is reflective of the bank’s desire to capitalise on the potential increase in M&A activity in the region. Expect more hires to follow.