If you're a banker in London or on Wall Street, you might think you have it good. After you all, you probably earn a lot more than anyone you know working in other industries, and you're living in one of the finest cities in the world. Believe me, though, your lifestyle is nothing when it comes to the bankers I know in Dubai.
I know plenty of people who've done their time in the City and have gone to Dubai for something better. They live in a world apart. - A world of high pay and extreme luxury. A world, too, where they don't have management looking over your shoulder.
Dubai bankers tend to be disparaging about people who hang around in London or New York. Why would you work in these cities and pay tax when you could work in Dubai and pay none? - When you often get additional benefits like a car and an accommodation subsidy? Why would you work like a dog in London or New York when one of Dubai's biggest markets is Saudi Arabia, which only trades around $1bn a day - and then mostly to retail customers? People I know there have lunches with friends, maybe even a nap. Banks' local operations in Dubai also have more freedom to trade their own books to make P&L than operations in London and New York, which can make the job more interesting and lucrative.
It's not just that though. Because they're removed from senior management, Dubai-based bankers also have more freedom when it comes to expenses. I know people with clients in Abu Dhabi who expense a BMW 7 Series or Mercedes S-Class, drive the 90 minute or less trip to Abu Dhabi to see the client, and then stay in a 5* hotel. By comparison, there are people flying in from London who are forced to justify the journey by booking at least four meetings. It's rare that London bankers are allowed to stay more than one night as most banks are saving on hotel costs.
Yes, there are downsides to living in the UAE: mostly that it's hot. Business in the region is also being complicated by the argument between Saudi Arabia and Qatar (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain cut ties with Qatar last June), which has put Qatari business out of bounds. Saudi Arabia, though, is a developing market of its own. - Citi is reportedly thinking of seeking a full banking license in Saudi Arabia in order to capitalize on the privatizations happening in the Kingdom.
Teams in Dubai are small, so moving there isn't easy. However, it always seems to me that bankers in Dubai are living like Sheikhs while everyone else is subject to cost cutting. If you get a chance to move to the MENA region, you should seriously think about it. You work less. The job is more interesting. And you get paid more. Frankly, I'm jealous.
Henri Jasper is the pseudonym of a VP at a U.S. investment bank
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