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Middle East boutiques: New financial institutions get a warm welcome

The spectacular growth of Middle Eastern markets is attracting new ventures of all sizes. But smaller, more specialized firms are increasingly popular. Jethro Wookey reports.


IN JUNE, CREDIT Suisse announced the departure of its chairman and former chief executive of the EMEA region. Michael Philipp had been at the Swiss bank for three years and was a member of its executive board for the duration. Philipp is leaving the bank to launch his own firm, focused on investment management and advisory services in the Middle East and Africa.

He is the latest and highest-profile example of a growing trend: the establishment of small, boutique-style institutions in the Middle East by senior managers of large banks. They are attracted by the rich opportunities in the region, driven by the steamroller of oil money. The region has developed a financial clout that is drawing people such as Philipp from all over the world. "Apart from oil and gas, and the real estate, tourism and retail sectors in Dubai, the region is all about the financial sector," says Mushtaq Khan, an economist at Citi. "These are all ambitious countries trying to grow their financial sectors."

Philipp is setting off on a well-trodden path. Existing boutiques include GulfMerger, a specialist M&A house that employs just five people.

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