Dubai's economy will benefit from a surge in job creation and private wealth generation if it is chosen to host Expo 2020 tomorrow, according to a senior private banker.
The award of the right to host the Expo would only bolster the UAE’s already impressive economic growth, said James Fleming, chief executive of Arbuthnot Latham.
“The UAE’s economy is forecast to grow by around 4.5 per cent this year, which is certainly healthier than growth in the UK,” said Mr Fleming. “The long-term ambition of Dubai is one of expansion, and if it wins Expo 2020 there will be 270,000 jobs added. All of that will continue to add to the whole wealth creation story, and hence the need for services like ours.”
In response to such growth, Arbuthnot Latham, a London-based private bank, opened an office in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in July.
“We as a bank have had Middle Eastern clients for many years, and many of them like to manage their relationship from London,” said Mr Fleming. “But it’s important to us to have a physical presence here, we feel that we’re covering all bases.”
Sixty-one private banks currently have operations in the Middle East, 44 of which are headquartered in the UAE, according to Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of Insight Discovery.
Much of the private banking and wealth management business conducted with high net worth individuals in the UAE and the wider region is currently booked outside the region, including Switzerland, Singapore and the Channel Islands, according to Mr Sillitoe.
The increase of private wealth in the UAE, together with other markets in the Arabian Gulf region, may lead to an increase in assets being booked in Dubai, as opposed to more established international financial centres, said Mr Fleming.
“The DIFC celebrates 10 years of operations next year. If you take a step back and look at the level of growth and development over the past 10 years it’s been tremendous for Dubai to establish itself as a financial centre.
“The next stage of its evolution is probably where it becomes a booking centre. And that will probably be over the next 10 years or so. I think as a regional hub it’s getting stronger and stronger, and that’s what’s attracted us here.”
Despite the recovery in the UAE’s economy, wealth preservation, rather than high returns, remains the key priority for clients, said Mr Fleming.
“With all the volatility of the global financial crisis, wealth preservation has been at the heart of every conversation we’ve been party to,” he said.
“The days when people would only have a conversation if they could get an annual growth of 15 per cent are largely a thing of the past.”
While residential real estate in the UK, particularly in central London, remains a popular investment for the bank’s clients, in recent months there has been a shift into commercial property outside the capital, generating attractive yields and the potential to extract value.
“Equities as an asset class have seen some good in flows over the past 18 months to two years,” said Mr Fleming, despite emerging markets suffering a little in the past six months, following announcements over tapering of quantitative easing in the US.