Hiring activity is robust for banking and finance professionals in the UAE as visa reforms and the continued expansion of the golden visa programme attract more job seekers and investors to the Emirates, recruitment specialists say.
Recruitment in the sector is also high in Saudi Arabia where government-funded projects will drive much of the activity, creating many jobs and opportunities within the industry, the Hays 2023 GCC Salary Guide says.
Some of the busiest areas for hiring in the banking and financial services sector were in private equity and advisory firms. These companies focused on expanding their workforce capabilities across junior, middle and senior levels to backfill roles to cover promotions, the research shows.
Furthermore, an increase in initial public offerings across the region meant corporate banks were busy hiring, particularly for capital market roles, according to Hays.
“Due to the increase in IPO demand, equity capital market roles will continue to be sought-after across the GCC. Regional banks will now look to hire across the spectrum to keep up with deal flow,” says Aashish Gidwani, consultant for banking and financial services at Hays.
“Additionally, should the economic predictions of the large investment banks transpire, we expect experts who are proficient in financial restructuring to be mandated.”
The job market in the UAE, the Arab world's second-largest economy, has recovered well from the Covid-19 pandemic thanks largely to fiscal and social measures taken by the government.
Most companies in the Emirates plan to hire more employees during the remainder of the year, and wages are expected to increase by slightly under 2 per cent in 2023, according to the Cooper Fitch Salary Guide 2023.
More than half of companies (57 per cent) expect to increase salaries this year, according to Cooper Fitch, which polled leaders at 300 companies in the GCC.
In Saudi Arabia, investment companies are still in need of investment associates. Given the high demand for these positions, there is a shortage of qualified candidates, according to Hays.
Also, with the opening of new investment companies, there is an increasing need for experts in the field of compliance.
Saudi Arabia’s Capital Market Authority will be regulating these companies, so it is crucial to have a head of compliance professional to ensure the company remains compliant, the research says.
The same demand holds true for the roles of finance managers and directors of financial services, who play a critical role in ensuring the financial success of the company, Hays reports.
With hiring rates increasing in the UAE’s banking and financial services sector, what are the most sought-after jobs and how much do they pay?
Read on to find out – and check out our comprehensive UAE salary guide 2023 slide show below for a snapshot of your sector.
Which jobs are in demand?
Chief financial officer, compliance officer, fund accountant, investor relations, finance investment managers, market risk manager and operations roles in middle offices (private equities, listed equities and hedge funds) are some of the most in-demand positions in the UAE’s banking and financial services sector, Michael Page says in its 2023 UAE Salary Guide.
Lack of an extensive on-the-job environment has meant that professionals, especially those in the early and mid-career stages, have not had the benefit of extensive on-the-job training and coaching in their roles, the recruiter says.
There is a gap in terms of client expectations versus candidate skills, which is a continuing challenge, it adds.
What job skills are employers looking for?
Some of the key skills sought-after by employers are financial modelling, senior strategic finance, compliance and investor relations among listed entities, the Michael Page report says.
Financial modelling, especially for leveraged buyouts, remains a key skill-set employers are looking for, given changes in the transaction environment, the research says.
It has become imperative to hone financial modelling skills beyond what is possible in conventional working hours, it adds.
“In terms of skills, those professionals with the foundational skills required for investment roles – financial modelling and project/client management – will be in high demand in 2023,” according to Mr Gidwani from Hays.
With an increase in venture capital activity within the region, there is growing demand for professionals with international venture capital investments and start-up portfolio management experience, Michael Page research shows.
There is also an increased focus on candidates with buy-side growth investments experience, especially within the technology sector.
Meanwhile, expectations from senior finance professionals within the investment, private equity and banking universe are that of a strategic business partner who is able to manage balance-sheet risk, lead and execute a long-term vision, as well as credibly guide the board in its strategic decision-making, the recruitment consultancy points out.
“Compliance remains one of the key in-demand skill sets across the region, driven by sustained high volumes of newly established entities across the DIFC [Dubai International Finance Centre] and ADGM [Abu Dhabi Global Market]; as well as the constant evolution of compliance frameworks, controls and processes,” Michael Page says.
“Employers have been particularly interested in candidates with authorised compliance officer status, as well as candidates who have experience in establishing and developing strong compliance frameworks.
“2022 saw an increase in corporates getting listed on the DFM and ADX, which in turn has increased demand for professionals with strong financial modelling and marketing and communications skills. With growing regulation within this function, investor relations remains an area of growth within the region.”
Are salaries expected to rise in the sector?
Employees in the UAE’s banking and financial services sector received the highest rate of salary increase in any sector in 2022, the Hays Salary Guide shows.
Professionals and employers in the industry agree that salaries will increase further this year.
More than half, or 56 per cent, of employees polled by Hays said their salaries increased in 2022. The main reason cited was an individual performance-related pay increase.
For those who received a salary increase, the most common increase was by more than 15 per cent – among the highest in any sector.
Looking ahead, professionals within the sector across all levels are optimistic about their pay this year, Hays says.
About 77 per cent are expecting their salary to increase in 2023. This is largely in line with the three quarters of sector employers that expect salaries within their organisations to increase.
However, expectations differ between groups in terms of rates of pay, with employees most commonly expecting an increase of 15 per cent or more, but most employers predict raises of 5 per cent to 10 per cent, according to Hays.
What other benefits can employees expect
Salary and benefits packages are the main pull factors attracting professionals to any given role.
However, work-life balance – including flexible working – is one of the most important factors for about half (48 per cent) of employees considering a new role, the Hays Salary Guide shows.
Sixty-seven per cent of employees in the UAE’s banking and financial services sector are satisfied with their current work-life balance, the guide finds.
With less than half of sector employers (48 per cent) offering hybrid or remote working, those that offer such options are at a distinct advantage to attract and retain the best talent, Hays suggests.
Equally, employees in the sector are ambitious and seek opportunities for career development.
In 2023, about half of employees (48 per cent) do not expect to be promoted.
Lack of career progression is one of the main reasons that 56 per cent of professionals plan to change organisation this year, the recruiter says.
Companies that want to retain top talent should set clear promotional targets, outlining the individual’s success targets and career track within the organisation for the medium to long term.
“Organisations should remain open, where possible, to internationally based candidates who are open to relocating; they should also consider candidates with transferable skills who are based locally and demonstrate an ability and willingness to upskill,” the Michael Page report recommends.
“Candidates, on the other hand, should invest time in improving their technical skills and gain expertise in their domains to be able to excel in technical interviews.”
What are the highest paying jobs in the banking and financial services sector?
- Head of wholesale banking (executive vice president): Dh98,000 ($26,684) to Dh177,000 a month
- Head of corporate banking (senior vice president): Dh75,000 to Dh107,000
- Senior relationship manager: Dh35,000 to Dh50,000
- Head of consumer banking (executive vice president): Dh95,000 to Dh200,000
- Head of retail banking (senior vice president): Dh75,000 to Dh120,000
- Head of assets/sales: Dh47,000 to Dh100,000
- Senior manager for products/sales: Dh40,000 to Dh60,000
- Manager for products/sales: Dh25,000 to Dh40,000
Investment banking (mergers and acquisitions, debt capital markets and equity capital markets)
- Managing director: Dh87,000 to Dh185,000
- Executive/senior director: Dh60,000 to Dh120,000
- Director: Dh45,000 to Dh85,000
- Vice president: Dh35,000 to Dh75,000
- Managing director/chief investment officer: Dh80,000 to Dh160,000
- Senior vice president/senior director: Dh60,000 to Dh100,000
- Vice president/director: Dh50,000 to Dh75,000
- Managing director: Dh70,000 to Dh130,000
- Senior vice president/senior director: Dh50,000 to Dh90,000
- Vice president/director: Dh40,000 to Dh70,000
- Chief risk officer: Dh70,000 to Dh165,000
- Head of risk: Dh40,000 to Dh85,000
- Manager: Dh30,000 to Dh48,000
- Head of compliance/chief/money laundering reporting officer (MLRO): Dh50,000 to Dh110,000
- Compliance manager/vice president and MLRO: Dh34,00 to Dh55,000
- Managing director: Dh50,000 to Dh160,000
- Senior vice president/senior director: Dh45,000 to Dh90,000
Finance and accounting (investments/funds)
- Chief financial officer: Dh75,000 to Dh170,000
- Group finance director: Dh55,000 to Dh85,000
- Financial controller: Dh37,000 to Dh60,000
- Finance manager: Dh25,000 to Dh40,000
Source: Michael Page UAE 2023 Salary Guide