There appears to be cautious hiring optimism in the Middle East as fees start to recover, recently posting a 72% growth over the previous quarter, since plummeting from their 2007/2008 highs, as a result of which staff levels were trimmed down to the bare bones. However, even though earnings still remain at around half of those at the peak of the market, recruitment consultants say firms are looking to reposition themselves in the region, and for the first time in five years are seeing a return in senior banker hiring.

According to executive search firm the S&T Group, only a handful of international investment banks are looking at real expansion in the Gulf, those include Renaissance Capital, JP Morgan and Natixis. However, it is local banks such as Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Emirates NBD that are looking to bolster their investment banking teams, driven by record profits from the emergence of the UAE as the leading Middle East banking and finance center.

The downturn in 2008 saw a number of senior bankers previously employed by large international investment banks set themselves up as independent consultancies, made feasible by a combination of having led prestigious deals, a large contact network and local expertise. Headhunters say that it is these very individuals who are now in most demand by banks looking to expand or rebuild their regional presence.  However, success in a competitive and fragile market place, which is becoming increasingly complex depends on not only having the right skill set and experience, but crucially on the ability to stand out by presenting those on a tightly tailored professional CV.

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