First Gulf Bank Plans Hiring for Investment Bank Transition

First Gulf Bank PJSC, the Abu Dhabi-based lender which this week recruited former Standard Chartered banker Steve Perry, is planning further high-level hires as it focuses on winning more investment-banking business.

Perry is “one of a number of senior appointments” the ruling-family controlled lender expects to make in the next six months in areas such as debt capital markets, wholesale banking head Simon Penney said today in e-mailed comments.

“We are moving into being something that looks and feels a little bit more like an investment bank,” Penney said. “We’re focusing a lot more on originating from our client base, which we haven’t done as much as we should have in the past.”

Perry was Standard Chartered Plc’s Dubai-based head of loan syndications and capital markets for the Middle East and North Africa until last year and is joining First Gulf in a new role as the bank’s head of debt markets, said Penney, who himself joined the bank this year from Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc.

First Gulf Bank is one of several lenders in the second-biggest Arab economy seeking to boost investment-banking revenue. It plans to build its bond distribution capabilities to work alongside top regional underwriters like HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc, Penney said. The bank is also seeking to improve its risk management abilities by offering derivative products and foreign exchange hedging, he said.

Bond Sales

Bond sales in the Gulf Cooperation Council surged to a record $43 billion last year, though they have dropped 14 percent this year compared with 2012 as yields rose on concern that the U.S. Federal Reserve will taper its bond buying plan.

The United Arab Emirates has the biggest banking market in the six-nation GCC, which also includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar. Fifty-one commercial banks operate in the country, including the local units of Citigroup Inc and Barclays Plc.

First Gulf Bank fell 2.2 percent to close at 15.9 dirhams today. The stock has gained 37 percent this year.

First Gulf Bank is also planning to build its cash management and trade finance businesses to support clients in the U.A.E. and expansion abroad, Penney said.

First Gulf Bank in July reported second-quarter profit rose 15 percent to 1.17 billion dirhams ($319 million), the second-highest in the U.A.E. after National Bank of Abu Dhabi PJSC. Borrowings by companies and consumers helped boost lending 7.4 percent in the first half from year end, it said.

(Adds share price in the eighth paragraph)
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