* Qatar banks attract global bankers with pay, security
* M.Stanley's Subeai to join Barwa Bank arm - sources
* Goldman's Qatar CEO Kawari quit to join QInvest
* Global banks have cut investment banking jobs in region
By Dinesh Nair and Mirna Sleiman
DUBAI, Oct 10 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
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 senior
"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.
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 the Middle 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.
Credit Suisse, in which Qatari investment firm Qatar Holding
owns a stake, is trimming its investment banking team in Dubai
and relocating some jobs to Qatar as part of efforts to focus on
niche markets, industry sources told Reuters last month.
Morgan Stanley's Qatar head Khalid al-Subeai resigned last
week to join the investment banking division of Qatar's Barwa
Bank, while Goldman's Qatar chief executive Tamim al-Kawari has
joined QInvest, part-owned by Qatar Islamic Bank, as deputy CEO,
according to sources familiar with the matter. Both men are
Morgan Stanley and Barwa Bank declined to comment. A Goldman
Sachs spokeswoman confirmed Kawari's departure, which took place
this summer but was not publicly announced. The sources spoke on
condition of anonymity as the matters had not been made public.
In Qatar, "you can see that the top brass is grooming the
young talent to take up bigger roles, and the hirings could be
part of that move," one foreign banker said of Qatar.
"These are the kind of people who will run the sovereign
fund in future. It's a very smart move and very much expected of
QUALITY OF LIFE
The influx of banking talent to Qatar includes some
experienced executives who are moving there from rival financial
centres nearby, such as Dubai.
For some, the move raises potential quality of life issues.
With a population of just 1.8 million including 250,000 Qatari
citizens, Qatar is smaller and less glamorous than glitzy Dubai,
which has been building itself as a cosmopolitan city for at
least a decade longer.
A 2011 survey by consultants Mercer ranked Dubai as 74th in
a global ranking of cities for their quality of living, with
neighbouring Abu Dhabi at 78th. Qatar's capital Doha came in
significantly lower at 106th.
The rankings may change, however, as Qatar conducts a
massive infrastructure building programme before it hosts the
2022 soccer World Cup. And even now, the attractions of working
for an active and expanding financial establishment are clearly
enough for many bankers.
In June Commercial Bank of Qatar hired Sarmad Lone,
previously Dubai-based Middle East investment banking head of
Morgan Stanley, to head up its wholesale banking business.
Barwa Bank hired Ihsan Khelef from HSBC Holdings' Dubai
office to head its debt capital markets business early this
year. Khelef was responsible for regional sovereign debt
issuance at the British bank.
Since then, Barwa has been involved in several high-profile
Islamic bond sales in the region, including Qatar's $4 billion
issue in July.