AllianceBernstein joins UAE’s new wave of investment firms

U.S. money manager to open office at Dubai International Financial Centre, catering to clients throughout the Gulf and across the broader Middle East

Sylvain Sonnet via GettyImages

Dubai International Financial Centre

AllianceBernstein, one of the largest U.S. asset managers, plans to open a regional office in the United Arab Emirates to tap into the rising tide of investments flowing through the Gulf.

The Nashville, Tenn.-based firm, which has $676 billion in assets under management, said last week that it received a regulatory license to operate in the Dubai International Financial Centre, a special economic zone within the UAE’s largest city. More than 300 asset- and wealth-management firms have offices in the DIFC.

The new office will be led by Jean-Paul Hobeika, managing director for Middle East institutions, who was named senior executive officer, AllianceBernstein said. He will work with Eduard van Nes, head of intermediary sales for the Middle East and Africa, who recently moved to Dubai. The firm, which employs 3,000 people at 45 offices around the world, has an Israeli branch in Tel Aviv.

Setting up in the UAE will spur AllianceBernstein’s regional growth and “improve our ability to serve clients through proximity as well as capturing important market opportunities,” said Willem van Gijzen, head of Central Europe, Middle East and Africa institutions at the firm. The new office will target institutional clients, distribution partners and family offices with its asset management services, the firm said.

A proliferation of mergers and acquisitions across the Gulf, as well as the inflow of money from Russians relocating because of international sanctions have bolstered financial and property markets in the UAE. The country’s sovereign wealth funds now manage more than $1.5 trillion in assets.

Capital inflow to the UAE rose by 10% last year to $23 billion, according to government records. Investment banks and asset management firms have also been opening new offices in Saudi Arabia, which has made establishing local branches a prerequisite for government business. The World Bank raised its growth forecast for the UAE to 3.4% from 1.1%, based on higher oil output, recent economic reforms and new investments.

Arif Amiri, CEO of the DIFC Authority, said AllianceBernstein’s “commitment to the region is testament to Dubai’s strategic position at the center of the world, providing the firm with access to $8 trillion of private wealth across the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.” The DIFC said in February that some 50 international hedge funds have applied for licenses to open in its independently regulated district.

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