People Moves

French Giant Shutters Private Banking Office In Bahrain

Wendy Spires, Group Deputy Editor, London, 3 February 2012

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Societe Generale Private Banking has confirmed that it is to shutter its Bahrain office as part of ongoing efforts to rationalise its organisation.

Following the closure, SocGen’s private banking arm will centralise its Middle Eastern business in the UAE, retaining its offices in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It is as yet unknown if the closure of the Bahrain office, which launched three years ago, will result in significant job losses.

SocGen joins fellow French giants Credit Agricole and BNP Paribas in cutting back its operations in Bahrain, as well as numerous other firms which are in the process of rationalising their global networks. By contrast, this week saw Notz, Stucki & Cie, the Geneva-based asset manager, unveil a new office in the Kingdom.

It would seem that the spate of withdrawals from Bahrain has more to do with firms' efforts to slim down their number of offices rather than the prospects for the Kingdom itself. According to recent Bahraini quarterly economic figures, the financial services sector in the monarchy grew by 1.7 per cent in the year to June 2011 and licensed financial firms now number over 400. Industry commentators have said that while wholesale uprisings rocked many Arab republics in 2011, the region’s monarchies have looked relatively stable by comparison, even if they have had their fair share of unrest.

Meanwhile, Exclusive Analysis, the geopolitical risk consultancy, noted towards the end of last year that Saudi Arabia, the absolute monarchy with the most ultra high net worth individuals in the Middle East, has tried to shore up its fellow monarchies to prevent the “domino effect” seen in the republics. As such, Bahrain “has now effectively become a Saudi protectorate”, the firm said.

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