Migration of executives from free zone continues

Chief legal officer and head of risk and compliance are the latest to go.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has lost several top executives in recent months as the financial free zone adjusts to the rapidly changing realities of doing business in the region's leading commercial hub. Dean Ferris, the chief legal officer, and Jahangir Khan, the head of risk and compliance, are the most senior executives to leave their positions recently.

Mr Ferris has been replaced by Issa Baddour but he will remain as registrar of companies for about two weeks. He did not respond to requests for comment. Mr Khan confirmed he had resigned from the DIFC on June 1, but declined to comment further. Ra'ed Saqfelhait, who held management positions in the DIFC, had also resigned within the last several months. He confirmed he had left, but declined to comment further.

There have been no allegations of improper conduct on the part of Mr Ferris, Mr Khan or Mr Saqfelhait. DIFC declined to comment about their departures. Another top executive to leave is Bisher Barazi, the former managing director of DIFC Investments who is on "investigation leave" while KPMG and the the Dubai Government investigate the DIFC. DIFC Investments posted losses of US$561 million (Dh2.06 billion) last year, mostly because of the declining value of its properties. The management shake-up has taken place since the appointment of Ahmed Humaid al Tayer, who replaced Dr Omar bin Sulaiman as the governor in November last year.

Mr al Tayer has hired the consulting firm McKinsey to come up with a strategy based on an extensive review of "weaknesses" at the DIFC, so it can be competitive in the years ahead, he said in an interview with the Financial Times published on June 24. "In the past the DIFC had made investments in order to diversify revenues," he said, according to the newspaper. "I think they were not successful investments. And we have now said that we will take $500m of impairment charges … At the same time there is also a revamp of the organisation chart … and the focus is on core business."