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Capital Markets

Middle East: Fund management moves to the forefront

Recent developments in the stock markets of the Middle East have caught the attention of international investors. But they also have the potential to invigorate something that the region has long lacked – a powerful domestic asset management industry.

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Akber Khan, Al Rayan Investment

For many years, asset management in the Middle East has been something of an afterthought to the global industry. With the biggest markets inaccessible and the others representing little meaningful scale in any benchmark index, they have been a side-bet, even an indulgence.

All of that is set to change. The inclusion of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in MSCI’s Emerging Markets index last year was a sign of things to come. The opening of Saudi Arabia to international capital – with some restrictions – is a true landmark, bringing the region’s biggest economy and market by far into the reach of a whole new group of institutional investors. And now it looks like Iran, cut off from world portfolio flows for years by sanctions, is returning to the fold as well. These are interesting times to be a regional fund manager in the Middle East.

While there are examples of international institutions staffing up in the Gulf, today it remains heavily under-represented by the world’s big active managers. Most of them still talk about a future opportunity rather than a present one.

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