By Hakan Enver, Operations Director of Morgan McKinley in London and Trefor Murphy, Managing Director of Morgan McKinley UAE
Despite the economic woes of recent years, the financial services sector is here to stay and for those professionals seeking fulfilling careers, there is no doubt that the world has become gradually smaller and consequently talent has become far more globally mobile. While London remains the number one global financial services centre, aside from the other traditional hubs of New York Frankfurt and Tokyo, there are now other successful financial centres offering a diverse range of roles.
According to City think-tank Z/Yen’s Global Financial Centres Index, Dubai is the most competitive financial centre in the Middle East and Africa region and, it has also been named as one of three emerging global contenders alongside Beijing and Moscow. Against a backdrop of global economic pressure, the UAE region continues to outperform most others and while the Eurozone crisis led to a more subdued recruitment drive last year, confidence during 2013 has been very much on an upward trajectory. And in London, there is increasing evidence that, while cost control and regulation remain a priority for the sector, there is now a real focus on growth – a trend reflected in the latest PWC Financial Services Survey. The survey also reveals that a third of financial services organisations admit that the availability of professional staff has re-emerged as a factor which could have a major impact on their ability to grow.
So what can the ambitious financial services professional expect from the job markets in Dubai and London?
Analysts in the UAE region are bullish about a return to growth for equity and debt capital markets with net profit on the DFM up 138% in the first half of 2013 compared to last year. The UAE will also benefit from an upgrade to ‘Emerging Markets’ status on the MSCI Index in May 2014 and with trading volumes increasing, Global Markets teams are preparing for growth. Most regional banks have maintained strong balance sheets and as they look to lend to increase market share, senior managers are recognising that investing in talent now is key. Banks competing for a share of the region’s growing wealth and investment industry also continue to grow, resulting in competition for experienced private bankers, wealth and investment managers. Additionally, regional banks and sovereign wealth funds are continuing to strengthen their teams to manage their growing portfolio of regional and global assets. In investment banking, an optimistic outlook in the Middle East combined with a slowing down in Europe has created an increased focus on deals in the MEA region. The areas of compliance and risk continue to grow driven by increased regulatory pressures and sanctions at both a global and local level. With increased pressure on internal controls and corporate governance, professionals with solid experience in these areas will continue to be in high demand. Dubai is also well placed to capitalise on the increasing global interest in Islamic Finance. Dubai was a pioneer in this area having created the Dubai Islamic Bank in 1975 and is one of the leading players in the region. At the beginning of 2013 Dubai announced its plan to become the leading Islamic Finance centre in the world, a place currently occupied by Kuala Lumpur and London.
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In London there is heightened demand within the compliance arena, namely around AML (Anti Money Laundering) and Financial Crime. Consequently professionals who have had exposure to high risk entities (for example Sanctions and PEPS – Politically Exposed Persons) are particular sought after. There is also an increasing need for contractors within operational and financial change as we edge nearer to the deadline for EMIR implementation. Additionally, professionals with experience around Basel 3, AIMD and FATCA are seeing the opportunities available to them increase significantly. There is also demand within the internal audit space. Roles are now less generalist in nature and more specific to particular areas of a bank. Market Risk Auditors and Quant Auditors, for example, are currently in demand as are auditors who are more product specific. More and more business line candidates, with limited or no prior audit experience, are being considered for these types of vacancies.
And what of cultural differences and working life? Dubai is primarily an Islamic country and so there are laws around public alcohol consumption and the display of public affection is frowned upon. Having said that our experience is that having a common sense approach will leave you with no issues. There is a large expat population and Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, languages, social class, religions, experience and understandings and therefore the way things are done may be very different from what you are used to and sensitivity to cultural differences is important. The UAE is also tax free. This means that in the top earning bracket you can take home up to 50% more than you would at home. If you are coming to the stage of your life when saving is more important than spending, the Middle East could be an even more attractive proposition. Additionally, in the UAE, the average annual rainfall is 4.7 inches, on par with just one very wet weekend in London, so it could be your gateway to a sunnier disposition and an outdoor lifestyle.
For those preferring to stay closer to home and gain a hike in pay, while the available bonus pool has certainly reduced in recent years, professionals looking to move now without losing an accrued bonus do still have time. In fact most banks’ cut off will likely be October/November so those seeking a bonus as part of their package could still negotiate this on a pro rata basis. However, guaranteed packages can be few and far between. Instead we are seeing banks increasing their basic salaries, and our latest employment data for August 2013, shows that the average change in salary moving from one opportunity to another stood at 20%.
So whichever city you choose, one thing is clear – the future is certainly looking bright for professionals with solid financial services experience. Those seeking a new role in the next few months should be sure to partner with a reputable recruitment consultancy. Ensure that they are knowledgeable within their chosen field and that you test them on their market awareness. Once you are certain they know your market and what you are looking for, ensure your updated CV – equipped with your key achievements – is sent to them. Check that they are actively marketing you – not simply being reactive to jobs coming in. Keep in touch with them regularly – this will give you the opportunity to assess how well they are in fact selling your skills to potential employers.