James Randall is sales manager at eFinancial Careers Gulf, a careers site tailored to job seekers in the financial industry. Here, he discusses how Dubai winning the Expo 2020 bid will benefit the recruitment sector and what other regional events are driving job creation.
Tell me more about eFinanical Careers.
We are a finance job board and careers advice service. It started in the UK in 1999 and we’ve been in the Gulf for the past six years. I joined the business just over a year ago to set up a physical office here. We had worked the market remotely but in any region you need to be physically there. We are owned by American firm Dice Holdings; it saw the Middle East as an area it seriously wants to invest in. The 2008-09 financial crisis probably slowed down the office opening, but coming here was always part of the plan. We work across all client areas: we have recruiters; we work with international clients — banks — as well as the local banks. As a financial careers service, we cut a lot of the noise out; there are general job boards here but we ensure people can get to the right talent as quickly as possible.
What trends are you noticing in financial services recruitment?
Local banks are ramping up their in-house recruitment. During the downturn there was a swing to outsourcing recruitment but they are taking it back into their control and I think that is down to confidence that there is a continuing need for talent coming into the market.
What effect will Dubai winning Expo 2020 have on recruitment in this sector?
Local banks are seeing it as a two-pronged opportunity to build their reputation and brand awareness both locally and globally. Banks across the region have a big retail side so some of the key banks are looking at getting more coverage into the Gulf. Many banks see [Dubai] as a good entry point to put their stake in the ground here and say: “We are not just a Middle East bank but a bit more of a global player”. During the recent expo in China, on a retail level, they put in place a lot more branches. You’ve got a lot of currencies as a global exhibitor and you’ve got to have a way you can transfer those funds effectively. Dubai, as well, should make it easier for businesses to set up and operate here, either on a short or long-term basis. There will certainly be a boom here and making that easier for foreign investment from the West or anyone globally — they have to analyse how they are going to do that. The UAE has emerging market status and now it needs to step up to the plate in the next seven years and evolve a little bit further to allow those processes to be a little bit more transparent for people coming in.
What do you see happening on the investment banking side?
You’ve got Sheikh Mohammed saying they are going to invest US$8.1 billion into infrastructure and that will incur both domestic and foreign investment. From the real estate side through to other areas such as facilities management and projects such as extending the Sheikh Zayed Road, extending the Metro I think you are going to see a lot of growth in the region. What is quite fascinating is that Dubai could probably handle the Expo 2020 [even] if they said it had to happen tomorrow. It will drive the city from being what is an emerging market city into becoming one of the top 10 players in the world.
Apart from Expo 2020 is there anything else on the horizon?
With Qatar holding the World Cup [in 2022], there is a massive infrastructure requirement and that is boosting the investment banking side. That is certainly a significant driver along with the expo.
What other trends have you noticed?
Locally in the past 18 months, Emiratisation has been a big part of what we’ve been involved in — and not just Emiratisation but localisation in Saudi, in Kuwait. We are facilitating that and working with local partners, such as universities and local aggregates, to maintain that. We also recently did a bonus survey and six out of 10 people are expecting a bigger bonus this year compared to last. And recruiters are expecting salaries to increase by between 3 and 5 per cent this year. It’s a confidence thing: there is a buzz in air. Dubai is a good place to be within the Middle East. It’s a good time for people to be coming here and to be challenged.