x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Monarchs have hands-on, and hands-off, business styles

When it comes to doing business, UK and UAE monarchs, who act as ambassadors for the business interests of their respective countries, have distinctly different styles.

The Royal Families of the UAE and Great Britain act as ambassadors for the business interests of their respective countries and promote those interests around the world.

But that broad generalisation leaves out some subtle distinctions in the way royalty in the respective countries view their roles with relation to business.

"The Gulf sheikhs have always had a much deeper involvement with the world of commerce generally than their British counterparts," says Anthony Harris, a former British ambassador to the UAE and now a businessman based in Dubai.

"The British royals certainly represent the UK abroad but they cannot, for a number of reasons, get so involved."

There is one similarity observed in both monarchies but that probably has more to do with the role of the sovereign as head of state: the lower down the royal line, the more likely individuals are to take part more explicitly in commercial activities.

Neither Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, nor Queen Elizabeth II are formally involved in business.

"They both play critical roles as heads of state, they give investors confidence through stability, but neither play a direct or overt role in driving business forward," says one British businessman based in Dubai, who wished to remain anonymous.

In the UK, the Queen and her husband Prince Philip are funded for some of their duties as royals from the Civil List, an annual award granted by parliament, which precludes outside business activities.

There are plans to scrap this and replace it with income from the Crown Estate, the property business managed on behalf of the royal family.

Other British royals have significant business acumen. Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, has been a tireless traveller and ambassador on behalf of British business round the world. Other more junior members of the House of Windsor have tried independent business careers, with mixed results.

In the UAE, Royal Family members have numerous connections to business. Family members in Abu Dhabi and Dubai figure at the top of state controlled companies, which often combine strategic national development aims with commercial discipline. Others engage across many business sectors. Royal Group, the property company, and First Gulf Bank, for example, are both owned by members of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family.

fkane@thenational.ae