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Thu 1 Jul 2010 10:57 AM

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Too few Gulf nationals seen in investment banking

Most Arab financial services execs in GCC come from Lebanon or Egypt - senior banker.

Too few Gulf nationals seen in investment banking
INVESTMENT BANKER: Most Arab financial services professionals in the Gulf come from more established banking centres such as Lebanon or Egypt.(Getty Images)

Gulf Arab states should invest in promoting investment banking as a career choice for graduating nationals because of the growing importance of the industry for the development of the region's economy, a senior banker has said.

Majed Al Mesmari, a UAE national, who is head of financing solutions at boutique investment bank Rothschild Middle East, said there were too few nationals in investment banking.

"There is still a perception among the local workforce that working for government is a safer bet but they don't realise that the experience you get for a couple of years will set you apart in future," Mesmari told Reuters in an interview.

"Every corporate action, every major government initiative will in one way or another be influenced by investment banking professionals. They are such an integral part of the economy that they are effective players in determining its pace and direction."

From humble beginnings in Fujairah, one of the smallest of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, Mesmari described himself as a "village person", and said he knew no other senior Emirati investment banker.

Most Arab financial services professionals in the Gulf come from more established banking centres such as Lebanon or Egypt.

Mesmari said he benefited from the insightful approach of his well-travelled parents towards education, at a time of few opportunities, and he began his career in local firms.

Before joining Rothschild over a year ago, Mesmari worked at HSBC's Islamic banking capital markets division.

"If you look at nationals in financial services, you notice clearly that most are working for banks, but particularly retail banking. It's a simpler and straightforward kind of profession."

"It is still quite disappointing that there isn't effective awareness programmes for ... Emirati graduates to recognise the world of banking beyond retail banking."

The impact of the global financial crisis on the investment banking industry has been significant in more developed economies. But nascent Gulf capital markets have a healthy pipeline of bond issues and initial public offerings awaiting a turn in market conditions.

Mesmari noted that committing to long hours and lack of a social life may well deter youngsters in this part of the world, and says that cultural issues also play a part.

A few years in an investment bank could prepare future generations to better run their inherited family businesses, which still dominate the private sector, he said.

"There is a clear evolution of many family businesses towards better corporate governance, better financial reporting and more robust succession plans.

"Many well educated members of new generation will work directly in family business without having put their hands in the mud, without working as wheelers and dealers with organisations which will give them a better mindset in running their organisations in the future." (Reuters)

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Deflection 10 years ago

Very crafty, blaming the Individuals themselves for the lack of Nationals in this field. As if it has nothing to do with the cronyism & discrimination regularly seen among these parasite expats who are just here to make some quick money and then leave. As if it has nothing to do with the Investors (GCC ones even) who don't have the faith or generosity to invest in the devlopment of their countrymen's Education and Skills to a world-class level. It's just greed, trying to 'waste' as little capital as possible on training, preferring to employ skilled expats only. As if it has nothing to do with the Authorities who have the power to enforce Local/Expat employment quotas, as well as training quotas, development standards, etc etc etc. GCC nationals' big brother does NOT have their BEST interest at heart. They just want the young locals not to irritate them, and stay out of trouble. that's enough. a Gov't deskjob is enough for that. The message is, don't set your ambitions too high.

kelly 10 years ago

Mesmari hit the nail on the head in his last paragraph. The next generation running family global operations need to understand the sophisticated processes involved in investment banking and no parent should hand over the keys to any business until they do. Yes it is long hours and hard work but it was the same for the generations who came before them with no perks or modern ways. Anyone can pass MBA exmas if they study hard enough but it takes courage and determination to grow a business and pass it on.

Gazza 10 years ago

What bizarre nonsense from Mesmari and ignorance from most commentators. As riba (interest) based banking is essentially and categorically haram for a Muslim (and it should be too - its greed and depredations surely now being somewhat apparent to the world!) then by definition there should never be ANY Gulf Nationals engaged in it. It's a silly as saying there aren't enough Emirati barmen or drug dealers.

Hussain 10 years ago

Hogwash, is all i can say for the mis-informed messmari... have you even stepped out of your swanky office and seen the young generation reently? Again as i must say, this Super spoilt bevely hills style life is only particulart ot he UAE... in saudi arabia...smart , educated Saudi's with MBA's and now even PHD's are out of work. As deflection said. We arent givin the decent chance...they dont trust us... they dont want to, plus the organized labour mafia run by expats are keeping young people from commiting to work. Put your self in this position..... If you were a young saudi engineer earning 5000SR a month while a Lebanese in the same position and level and job gets 5000USD... tell me... would you be a hard...determined worker??? its the same all over the gulf! an arabian bussiness survey last year proved saudis are the most loyal employees BTW i put in 14 Hour work days...... messmari... wake up and see the real world... youve jsut made the young generation more angry than it already is! "What sets us apart from the west, they care for their own...we don't" ~ by me

Blackberry 10 years ago

If the brains of all those saudi MBAs & PHDs function like yours, then I'm not surprised that they're out of work. I'm surprised as to how they even got their degrees though.

Hussain 10 years ago

We have a saying blackberry "oh he who is too insecure to post their real name." as for how i got my degree... i studied for 18 years straight 5 of uni which most em where sleepless nights of proejcts, assignments, essays and year long projects. majoring in building engineering and quality assurance. so in other words i earned it...i didnt pay to forge one like many of you expats do before coming here. Do you have any other questions? To AB: why is many of my detailed engineering comments are rejected while people with personal slander like this hidden blackberry person who isnt confident enough to reveal their real name be allowed to post theirs??? Some wonderful censorship you have going on here.