DUBAI: Lloyds Banking Group Plc s private banking arm expects to expand its Middle Eastern business quickly as it considers opening new branches and looks to add staff, the divisional head told Reuters on Thursday.
The Gulf Arab region, with Dubai as its financial center, continues to draw interest from international private banks hoping to benefit from an expected rise in the number of wealthy individuals.
Net new growth for us should be well in excess of GDP (gross domestic product) growth, said Nigel Putt, head of Lloyds Middle Eastern private banking division.
Lloyds Banking Group, as well as other lenders such as Standard Chartered and Barclays, have earmarked the Middle East as one of its most promising growth markets.
Most Gulf Arab markets are expected to recover in 2010, with GDP forecasts ranging from 16 percent in Qatar to around 2.5 percent in the UAE.
Lloyds international private banking unit has slightly less than 11 billion pounds of assets under management.
As far as growth is concerned it s fair to say our strategy going forward is to considerably increase the contribution of the Middle East to the European private banking business, Putt said. To that end we have grown our people and we will continue to grow the resources, said Putt, who was previously with Dresdner and Coutts.
Dubai remains an attractive business hub, despite the recent debt trouble at state-owned conglomerate Dubai World, Putt said.
The UAE as a whole is still a very sound proposition … Dubai has a standout infrastructure … it is natural place for a hub, Putt said.
The bank has been considering opening new representative offices in the Gulf region, but plans are still in their infancy stage, he said.
For the coming years, the Middle Eastern private banking sector could replicate the spectacular growth of Southeast Asia of the past decade, if the local capital markets continue to develop, Putt said.
When all the IPO s (initial public offerings) start coming through and wealth will be generated….which is what happened in Southeast Asia…the Middle East could potentially become as interesting.