UBS Boosts Middle East Expansion Drive With New Qatari Hub

UBS Group AG is setting up a second Middle Eastern hub in Qatar that will eventually add investment banking and asset-management services to its wealth-management business as part of an expansion in the region.

The new Doha wealth office will open within weeks and UBS intends to hire about 20 people by the end of the year, a person briefed on the plans said, requesting anonymity because the details aren’t public. Appointments will include back office and support staff, as well as relationship managers to build business with Qatari clients, the person said.

The wealth management business will be tapping into a market where per-capita income is almost six times that of the world average, according to World Bank data. Having a presence on the ground also opens UBS to the opportunity of potentially managing assets on behalf of one of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds, the Qatar Investment Authority.

Switzerland’s largest bank hired Tarek Eido from HSBC Holdings Plc to oversee its wealth management business in Qatar, starting March 1, according to a memo the bank sent to employees Friday and confirmed by a spokesperson. He will report to Ali Janoudi, who is responsible for the Middle East and Africa wealth business.

That adds to a string of other hires. This year, Dubai-based Desh Sharma joined UBS’s global family office along with four other wealth bankers he brought from Credit Suisse Group AG. UBS reinforced its regional expansion in 2019 by hiring Iqbal Khan, the former head of Credit Suisse’s international wealth-management unit.

Khan, UBS’s wealth unit co-head and president for the Europe Middle East and Africa region, last year set a target to double the client assets it manages in the Middle East and Africa after splitting out the region from the broader EMEA territory.

The Doha office will serve as a second regional hub after Dubai, people familiar with the matter said. Over the longer term, the business will be broadened out to include investment banking and asset management businesses, they said, asking not to be identified because the plans are private.

Speaking publicly for the first time as UBS chief executive officer, Ralph Hamers said during fourth-quarter earnings last week that the bank is looking at its presence in different regions and re-evaluating whether it would be able to gain scale, should serve the market only in a cross-border fashion, or seek out a local player to partner with.

In addition to Qatar and Dubai, UBS has offices in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, according to its website. Qatar is the world’s biggest liquefied natural gas producer.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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