Pay starts to increase again in the Gulf following several years of stagnation, but those charged with keeping risk at a minimum see the biggest demand.
Telephone number salaries look set to go ex-directory
The days of seven-figure guaranteed bonuses in the Gulf appear to be drawing to a close as pay practices move into line with the rest of the world.
Salaries in the region, which until recently commonly included guaranteed sums with bonuses paid irrespective of success or failure, are becoming more closely linked to performance, according to a new report from Mercer, a human resources consultancy.
The report also showed the growing competition among companies for skilled executives to manage levels of risk on their balance sheets.
A total of 73 per cent of organisations surveyed by Mercer last year increased salaries to workers in internal risk and audit positions, with chief risk officers gaining an average pay rise of 5 per cent.
"Already we see financial services institutions and other leading firms across the Gulf rethinking how to pay key executives and high potential talent as economic activity returns to stronger levels," said Cameron Hannah, the Middle East market leader for Mercer.
"Our surveys are forecasting base salary increases in 2011 ranging from 6 per cent to 7.5 per cent. This will be the first pay increase for many over the past two years," Mr Hannah said.
However, the larger salaries for risk and compliance staff underscored their importance to companies in a region that has been characterised for several years by financial misadventure.
"In the last couple of years, there seems to have been an increase in demand for senior people in risk management and compliance positions," said Michael al Nassir, a partner at the executive recruitment firm Pedersen and Partners.
"Because of what's happened in 2008, you've seen a number of people, particularly the banks, bringing in people in compliance."
Mr al Nassir said family-owned groups were also seeking talented risk management staff, chastened by the experience of the Saad and Al Gosaibi groups, two Saudi conglomerates that defaulted in 2009.
But Jonathan Gould, the manager of the financial services division at Morgan McKinley, said skilled risk professionals were in short supply and often had to be poached from overseas.
"There's a limited amount of talent in the region. Partly that's because we're an emerging market, and risk and compliance [standards] have been adopted recently," Mr Gould said.