Global Finance presents the best private banks in the Middle East.
Private banking has a bright future in the Middle East. In 2021, the number of high net worth individuals (HNWIs) grew by 5.5% across the region while their wealth increased 6.3%, according to Capgemini’s latest World Wealth Report. Growth was led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the number of ultrahigh net worth individuals (UHNWIs) jumped 17.5%—well above the 9.6% global average. Other Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait also showed strong performance.
Arab fortunes are traditionally concentrated in the hands of local families who built corporate empires with hydrocarbon money. Today, these families are looking to diversify and pass their assets on to the next generation.
International banks are sharpening their tools to better serve the region. This fall, HSBC expanded private banking services in the UAE, and Credit Suisse and Julius Baer are opening hubs in Qatar. Yet local banks are stepping up their game too, targeting not only the domestic market but also expats and international clients with deep pockets who seek new investment opportunities or simply a tax haven.
BEST PRIVATE BANK IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s largest lender by assets, Qatar National Bank (QNB) has a front-row seat for the 2022 World Cup, Qatar’s breakthrough international event. More importantly, gas exports offer huge growth opportunities. Already a top global player in that field, Qatar is expected to more than double production in the coming years. The bank will focus on “developing innovative financial solutions along with digital banking channels designed to meet the needs of high net worth customers around the world,” says Adel Abdulaziz Khashabi, QNB’s group general manager for Asset and Wealth Management.
For its domestic affluent-client base, QNB Private provides local investment options like the Al Watani Funds (specialized in Qatari blue-chip companies), the QNB MENA Debt Fund or the Islamic finance oriented Sukuk Fund. The bank also has a direct network in over 30 countries and high-end private banking subsidiaries in Paris, London and Geneva.
BEST PRIVATE BANK FOR SUSTAINABLE INVESTING
In a region where climate change, water scarcity and high temperatures are daily concerns, affluent customers increasingly expect wealth managers not only to provide investment options that help preserve the environment but also to act accordingly in business operations. In March, National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), Kuwait’s largest bank, launched its Sustainable Financing Framework as an effort to integrate environmental, social and governance principles into all of the bank’s operations. NBK committed to reducing gross operational emissions by 25% in three years and aspires to become net-zero operational by 2035. “Integrating sustainability into our wealth management is no longer considered a choice but an integral element to drive a greener and more sustainable future,” says Faisal Al-Hamad, CEO of global wealth management at NBK. “By pursuing responsible and sustainable investing, we are able to channel sustainable financing into the economy and be agents for positive change.”
BEST PRIVATE BANK DIGITAL SOLUTIONS FOR CLIENTS
Located in the UAE, the MENA region’s leading market for innovation and new technologies applied to the financial sector, Emirates NBD, Dubai’s biggest bank, demonstrated outstanding capacity to adapt cutting-edge concepts to banking and investing—for instance, in a metaverse startup accelerator alongside several other fintech partnerships and programs. “The UAE is now emerging as the leading global wealth hub, where the world’s wealthiest are looking to consolidate a greater share of their wealth ‘on shore’ in the UAE—from previous offshore holdings—as part of their geographic diversification,” says Saod Obaidalla, executive vice president and head of Private Banking at Emirates NBD. “We continue to invest smartly in technological innovations to transform customer experience and digitize the way forward.”