There are significant opportunities to serve a growing number of individual and institutional clients in the Middle East, particularly those based in the Gulf states, according to a top European banker.
"Despite impact of the global financial crisis and events of the Arab Spring, the Middle East remains a young, vibrant region with dynamic, increasingly diversified national economies, especially in the Gulf," according to Jacques Peters, Group Chief executive officer at KBL European Private Bankers, a leading Luxembourg-headquartered private banking group with operations in nine European countries. Last year, KBL European Private Bankers was acquired by Precision Capital, a Luxembourg company representing the business interests of Qatar.
"We have the skills and expertise to serve those clients, including staff who are specialized in structuring Sharia-compliant solutions," he said in an interview with the latest Newsletter of the 'Luxembourg for Finance,' the agency for the development of the financial centre in Luxembourg. It published a special edition titled "Luxembourg Meets the Middle East." Peters said that like many of the Gulf states, Luxembourg is a diverse country that welcomes anyone from outside its borders who is keen to contribute to economic growth. "Today, about 40 percent of our total resident population is foreign and that doesn't include the hundreds of thousands of so-called frontaliers, those who commute here on a daily basis from neighbouring countries like Belgium, France and Germany," he noted.
On his part, Rachid Ouaich, head of European operations at Wafra Capital Partners, a company that only offers sharia-compliant products, told the newsletter that most of their clients are located in Kuwait.
"If you look at the growth of Islamic finance compared to conventional finance in the Middle East or South-East Asia, Islamic Finance is the sector that is growing the fastest," he said.
He said that as an important entry to the Middle Eastern market, Turkey plays a significant role. "This country has one of the fastest growing economies worldwide. There is a natural link between the Middle East and Turkey, a cultural link", noted Ouaich. "People see Turkey as a market with a bright future. Now that the environment is more and more investor friendly they all want to invest there; it's a natural attraction," he added.
On her part, Valerie Mantot, head of Luxembourg office of the law firm LoyensLoeff said "most countries of the Middle East are growing rapidly; the key to success is to be able to identify for each of them the value that can be added by Luxembourg."