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OPINION

Citi makes a timely move to Dubai

The region’s importance could mean more banking officials relocating there.

Citi’s decision to relocate Alberto Verme, global co-head of investment banking, to Dubai, is the highest-profile move to the Middle East so far. He will be the most senior investment banker from a western institution in the region.

This is good news for Dubai, which is cementing its position as the region’s financial centre. The move also says something about Citi’s strategy. Vikram Pandit, chief executive at Citi, says the bank is "convinced of the region’s long-term and immense growth opportunities".

There are no other investment bankers approaching Verme’s calibre based in the region. Heads of Islamic banking are there, as are regional heads, and then there are the senior bankers following the coat-tails of sovereign wealth.

Most global investment banks, like multinational corporations, have boosted their Middle East operations. Lehman Brothers is an example: it is transferring Makram Azar, previously head of European media, consumer and retail investment banking, to Dubai, where he will become global head of sovereign wealth funds. Citi itself is also relocating Atiq Rehman, who previously ran emerging markets debt capital markets, to the city, where he will be co-head of EMEA capital markets origination.

But up to now only Singapore and Hong Kong have attracted global (rather than regional) banking chiefs outside the traditional centres of New York and London.

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