Islamic Banking

Increased Wealth In GCC Attracts Influx Of Foreign Private Banks

Stephen Little Reporter London 12 June 2013

Increased Wealth In GCC Attracts Influx Of Foreign Private Banks

A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group found that wealth in the Middle East grew by 9.1 per cent in 2012. It also reported that Qatar had the highest density of millionaires in the world, with Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also in the top ten.

This increased wealth has attracted an influx of private banks that looks set to increase competition in the region, according to Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of UAE research firm Insight Discovery.

"If you look at wealth in the region, there are a huge number of millionaires. One recent report estimated that one in 25 people in the UAE is a millionaire, with three out of every 100,000 households in the country being ultra-wealthy, so you can see why private banks are so attracted to Gulf Cooperation Council countries," said Sillitoe.

As part of a report, which is set to be released in September, the firm is mapping out the number of private banks in the GCC and has so far found 64, although this figure is expected to exceed 70.

The firm also believes that there are over 750 private bankers in the region.

"The private banks include global brands such as UBS, as well as niche international players such as EIB and Fairbairn. There are also at least 20 local organisations, mainly banks in the UAE and Saudi Arabia," said Sillitoe.

In recent months, a number of private banks have opened offices in the GCC, including LGT Group and Arbuthnot Latham.

Sillitoe said the implication of this increased competition was that some of the new private banks had been forced to closed.

"As a result of increased competition, between one and two banks are closing for every three new ones. One of the main reasons for this is they cannot compete as they are unable to offer Islamic banking," Sillitoe said.

Sillitoe also pointed out that the study revealed that many of the private banks in the region were halfway between a traditional private bank and a wealth manager in the services that they offered.

"One interesting trend we have discovered is that a lot of the private banks which are setting up in the region are not like typical private banks and are more like wealth managers. GCC countries are also attracting more quasi-private banks that require a lower minimum amount in assets held to bank with them compared to traditional private banks," said Sillitoe.

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