Global Investor/ISF recognises top players in Middle East

Global Investor/ISF recognises top players in Middle East

Blominvest wins top asset manager in Middle East

After winning last year’s Global Investor/ISF Best Asset Manager Lebanon Award, Blominvest has now upped the stakes to take home this prestigious regional award.

Since becoming established in 2008, Blominvest has grown from being a local player with two funds to becoming a serious regional competitor. “Since inception and in less than four years amidst a challenging global and regional situation, Blominvest’s AUMs have grown from 221% to $474.4Mn to reflect the level of in house expertise,” said Michel Chikhani, the firm’s head of asset management.

The firm has been a major part of development of sustainable investments. Lebanese-based Blominvest said the driving force behind the rapid build-up of funds has been the innovative product development of the asset management team. “ expertise in engineering financial products not only hedged investors from the financial meltdown but provided them with steady returns that surpassed other investments in the same class,” said Blominvest.

Blominvest has widened the breadth and depth of its funds by paving the way for the innovation of comparable investment vehicles. In late 2008, Blominvest pioneered the launch of two mixed-asset class mutual funds holding equity components; the BLOM CEDARS Balanced Fund and BLOM PETRA Balanced Fund.

This year, the firm launched the BLOM Mena Fund, a mixed asset class fund that targets established entities and sovereign wealth funds across the Mena region. This comes against the backdrop of the BLOM KSA Fund, according to Chikhani, which was successfully released in the Saudi market and has been a top performer ever since.

Last year the firm launched the BLOM Saudi Arabia Fund amid the political turmoil of the Arab Spring. It comprises diversified large cap Saudi equities and has been the second best performer this year with a 12.3% return.

The performance of the BLOM CEDARS Balanced Fund has led it to be awarded four times by Zawya’s Funds Monitor as the number one fund among its 20 Middle East peers balanced funds in terms of year to- date and monthly returns.

NCB Capital excells in wealth management

Winning the prestigious Wealth Manager of the Year Award is a significant milestone in the growth of NCB Capital, said Jawdat Al Halabi, CEO of the Saudi Arabia-based company.

Since its launch in 2007, NCB Capital has grown its business by providing tailored investment management products and services for affluent and high-networth individuals as well as institutions. NCB Capital has over a million high net worth clients and is Saudi Arabia’s largest asset manager with SR44bn ($11bn) under management, managing over SR9bn in discretionary portfolios.

Al Halabi said: “We know how client needs have evolved in the region and we have established dedicated teams who talk to them about the whole spectrum of financial support, from asset allocation in portfolios, to financial planning and investment advice.

In fact, we offer clients a unique advisory service that assists them in attaining their financial goals by structuring the right investment solutions. Across the Middle East, clients are now asking for broader investment advice rather than relying on benefiting from opportunistic investments in different sectors that they have to track and watch minute-by-minute. As a result, we have seen a demand for more sophisticated modelling that takes into account factors such as clients’ risk appetites and profiles as well as their return objectives.”

In addition, NCB said that it has ensured that it offers the right products and is proud of its range of sharia-compliant funds backed by award-winning research, and has recently announced a global strategic alliance with two of the world’s largest asset managers – TCW and Amundi. Similarly, it has grown its discretionary portfolio management business substantially and is a world leader in developing Islamic investment products, with a 30.1% market share through 25 funds.

Its AlAhli Saudi Riyal Trade Fund is the largest sharia-compliant fund in the world, with assets under management at a record SR12.2bn (US$3.2bn) and more than 17,000 clients.

Al Halabi added: “To be named Middle East Wealth Manager of the Year is a real honour and reaffirms that our combination of good relationships, strong product and wide distribution capabilities is producing real results for our clients.”

NCB is also rated in the top three equity research houses in the Middle East by Euromoney and is a leader in the brokerage industry in the Kingdom, ranking amongst the top three players in terms of market share (out of 38 brokerage firms).

Jadwa Investment was top equity manager in Middle East

Jadwa has been selected as Equity Manager of the Year as it celebrates a year of good performance and increasing its assets under management (AuM).

Sarah Al Suhaimi, managing director and chief investment officer of Jadwa Asset Management, applauded the efforts of the equities management team: “The result achieved is evidence of the distinctive capabilities of our team, robust investment process and efficiency.” She said the company is pleased with its AuM, which now stands at SR10.6bn ($2.8bn). At the end 2011, Jadwa’s total equity stood at SR1.3m.

Al Suhaimi said Jadwa has also been consistent in its performance: “We are especially pleased that we have been delivering consistent performance that led us to continue being among the top performers in various markets.”

One of the firm’s highlights of the year was maintaining Moody’s MQ2 Investment Management Quality Rating of MQ2 for the second year running. MQ2 is the 2nd highest ranking on Moody’s ratings scale, which is used to rank asset management companies globally. Moody’s rating is the first of its kind in the Middle East region.

Al Suhaimi said maintaining the rating shows the “high capabilities and standards of Jadwa’s team”. She also confirmed that Jadwa is carefully assessing several opportunities that fits their clients’ risk and return profile.

The asset management team has a track record of managing Saudi and regional public equities since 2002. The team has six CFA charter holders and has shown “strong consistent” outperformance, according to Jadwa.

The asset manager’s mission is to set a new standard in Islamic investment banking delivered by a “team of experts who share a common set of values and goals, driven by a passion to deliver a unique experience for clients which guarantees long-term relationships”. Jadwa is the sixth largest manager in Saudi Arabia and says it is committed to providing customised, sharia-based financial solutions approved by an independent sharia supervisory board for high net worth individuals, family offices and institutions.

National Bank of Abu Dhabi wins top fixed income manager

The National Bank of Abu Dhabi’s (NBAD) fixed income business may be young at just two years’ old but it has certainly risen to the challenge by winning this year’s Fixed Income Manager of the Year Award. The business has undergone a huge transformation since securing its first mandate in December 2010 to now breaking the $400m barrier in assets under management. Mark Watts, head of fixed income, has taken the team from strength to strength over the past couple of years, and he says that 2012 has been an “excellent year” for the business.

According to Watts, this year’s highlights include the launch of NBAD’s Cautious Income Fund, which showcases the team’s Mena bond management capability and has grown $130m in its first six months. Risk adjusted returns continue to strongly Al Suhaimi said Jadwa has also been consistent in its performance: “We are especially pleased that we have been delivering consistent performance that led us to continue being among the top performers in various markets.”

One of the firm’s highlights of the year was maintaining Moody’s MQ2 Investment Management Quality Rating of MQ2 for the support the business with its flagship portfolios benefiting from a Sharpe ratio of more than three since inception and annualised returns in double digits. This has been achieved despite three major events in 2011 including the Arab spring, US downgrade and the Greek crisis.

NBAD believes that bond investing is all about steady incremental returns delivered in a low volatility fashion. It uses a solutions-based approach that focuses on the client’s problems and needs.

Fixed income is a vital asset class in developed markets but has only started to gain recognition in the GCC region. The firm says the reasons behind this have been a lack of pension funds and insurance companies, a lack of expertise in those institutions and more importantly a lack of buy-side asset management expertise to bridge the gap. The latter point is what NBAD has based its business model on.

The firm’s business is split between its recently-launched mutual fund which has $110m AuM and its institutional segregated mandates which stand at $270m. Since its inception in March, the mutual fund is now the largest Mena bond fund in the UAE. The segregated mandates business has experienced similar growth, citing insurance firms, corporate, banks and government institutions among its clients.

At the heart of NBAD’s investment process is a research team which analyses companies or institutions it invests in from both top-down and bottom-up approaches.

NBAD says it makes more than 100 company visits each year and tries to take the approach of educating its clients on fixed income to show how it can help them.

Sharia fund award goes to....Al Rayan Investment

Al Rayan Investment (ARI) has developed a niche in the market, with clients rewarding its focus on GCC listed equities and fi xed income. Al Rayan GCC Fund (ARGF) is ARI’s fl agship product, an open-ended mutual fund available to both retail and institutional investors. The fund continues to grow from new subscriptions and impressive performance.

Arguably the only one of its kind, the absolute- return fund invests in Sharia compliant GCC listed equities and fi xed income (sukuk); investments are made with an 18-24 month horizon with ‘value’ the dominant strategy.

In terms of performance, the Al Rayan GCC Fund NAV is up almost 8% in the year to end-July 2012. By comparison, the S&P GCC Sharia Large Cap index is up 1.3% over the same period.

Al Rayan said the fund also exhibits lower volatility with superior returns. It said rigorous risk management combined with a disciplined investment process drives lower fund volatility while maintaining attractive returns. Currently, the ARGF boasts one of the highest Sharpe ratios versus its peers at +0.20. Participation in months where the market rallies averages over 60%, while participation in ‘down’ months is approximately 30%.

In 2012, ARGF continued to attract infl ows despite a relatively diffi cult environment for mutual funds – many new subscriptions have come from existing investors, a clear demonstration of the quality of the fund and investor confi dence in ARI, said the Doha-based company.

Aware that regional sell-side research is still developing, ARI has established an in-house research capability identifying big picture global and regional trends and drilling down to scrutinise security-specifi c opportunities. Primary research is the backbone of ARI’s decision-making process and so far in 2012, ARI has conducted over 65 calls or meetings with GCC companies. In addition, ARI seeks to meet a target company’s suppliers, customers and competitors to allow for an even more informed investment decision.

Backed by its research strength, ARI said it does not hide behind index benchmarks and focuses on delivering absolute return for clients. As a long-only investor, alpha generation is key and, in 2011, when GCC equity markets fell 9.5%, ARGF was down just 0.5%. In addition, ARI limits the number of holdings in the fund (23 at present) and keeps churn relatively low – after considerable research and analysis, deliberate medium-term bets are taken.

Not just an equity fund, ARGF invests in GCC listed equities and fi xed income; this allows investors to benefi t from the valuation discrepancies that exist in the regional equity and fi xed income markets.

Emirates NBD AM wins sukuk manager

Emirates NBD Asset Management has come out top in the new Global Investor/ISF Middle East Awards category, following an impressive year for the asset manager’s sukuk funds. The firm has already had a successful year after being named Mena Sukuk Manager of the Year at the Global Investor/ISF Investment Excellence Awards earlier this year.

Commenting on the win, Deon Vernooy, senior executive offi cer, Emirates NBD AM, said: “Winning an award is always a very positive reinforcement of our abilities and performance.”

He says the win is a “reflection of our strong commitment to deliver superior products to our investors through our disciplined research-driven approach to fund management”.

This year, the Emirates Global Sukuk Fund has delivered an impressive 7.96% year-to-date (as of August 31 2012), and has recently been graded Silver by S&P. The Jersey-based offshore fund outperformed its benchmark by 2.18% in 2011 to return 5.03% and has announced a dividend of 2% for the first half of 2012.

It is a sharia compliant open-ended fund, denominated in US dollars, that invests in a diversified portfolio of sukuk issued by companies and governments. The primary objective of the fund is to achieve high income as well as capital growth and it is managed from a long-term investment perspective based on fundamentals and value. The fund has a diversified investor base including corporate pension schemes as well as insurance platforms.

According to the firm, there are significant inefficiencies in the regional fixed income market that can be exploited through active management and security analysis. The team’s investment philosophy centers on credit research and relative value analysis on short to long term sukuk as well as yield curve management and issuer/issue selection.

A large proportion of the team’s returns are generated from its macro asset allocation strategy based on careful analysis of long-term secular trends.

“We are proud to receive this important award, which recognises our expertise in the sukuk market, and reinforces our standing as a leading asset management company in the Middle East,” Vernooy said.

Qatar Exchange excells in the region

The Qatar Exchange has kept its position as the best performing market in the GCC and Arab region for the second year in a row. After a 24% increase in 2010, the QE Index grew by 1.12% in 2011 and was the only market in the Arab region with a positive price return, underpinning the robustness of the Qatari stocks.

The year 2011 ended with the total market capitalisation of more than QR457bn. This represents an increase of 1.59% adding more than QR7bn to total market capitalisation from 2010 when the total market cap closed at QR7450bn. On the world stage, Qatar ranked number eight in terms of total return performance (including dividends), providing 5.6%, and was the only Arab country in the top ten. Between 2004 and 2011 the exchange’s market cap has grown more than 200% and it has also seen more than 270% growth in the number of annual transactions. There has been 24.8% growth in the QE20 Index during 2012.

The exchange has come a long way over the past few years and some its recent achievements have included adjusted tick sizes and extended trading hours, implementing delivery versus payment (DVP) to improve the post-trade environment. The exchange has also launched new sector and indices classification as well as introducing short-term treasury bills. It says it provides attractive dividend yields and an open, transparent and independently regulated trading environment. The exchange said it is committed to continue sustainable growth for both its investors and market participants.

The exchange’s success is directly related to the “strong” Qatari economy, according to the exchange. Qatar is one of the smallest Gulf countries but has a rapidly growing economy and is becoming an increasingly attractive financial centre.

Qatar Financial Centre Authority was top financial centre

Qatar is increasingly seen as a destination for both raising and deploying capital as its economy grows strongly and the country seeks to diversify away from its substantial hydro-carbon wealth (founded on the world’s third largest reserves of natural gas), in pursuit of the National Vision 2030. The development of a vibrant financial services sector is a key element of that diversification.

There is growing understanding and recognition internationally of Qatar’s strength as a financial centre. Some of the highlights of its achievements over the last year include:

• At the start of the 2012 the QFC Authority launched with Bloomberg the first of a new series of conferences on asset management in Qatar, attracting more than 350 senior figures from Asia, Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East. The higher than expected attendance was testimony to Qatar’s development as an asset management hub in the region and to the growing importance of the Gulf region as a link between the mature markets of the west and the emerging markets of the east.

• In April, the QFC Authority announced a ground-breaking, long-term strategic partnership between Qatar Asset Management Company (QAMC) collaboration between the QFC Authority and the Qatar Investment Authority) and Barclays Natural Resource Investments (BNRI), a global private equity business focused on natural resource investment opportunities. This is the first of a number of similar partnerships in a programme designed to accelerate the development of the asset management hub.

• In September, the QFC Authority launched to widespread interest the 3rd GCC Reinsurance Barometer at the industry’s annual meeting in Monte Carlo, the largest and most important global conference. The Barometer, based on in-depth interviews with 33 global and regional industry executives, is the latest in a series of published research that the QFC Authority produces throughout the year to provide more information and data on financial services within the GCC.

• There have been 14 new licensed firms to date, half of which are Qatari headquartered firms using the QFC as a platform to expand globally. QFC Authority is led by Shashank Srivastava, CEO and Board Member, who joined the Authority in April 2006 and has been instrumental in developing its three hub strategy, focusing on asset management, reinsurance and captive insurance. He has 16 years of global experience in the strategy consulting and investment industries, previously holding key positions with Dresdner RCM Global Investors and Andersen Consulting.

JPMorgan wins global custodian award in Middle East

Relationship management is integral to doing business in the Middle East, perhaps more so than any other global market. This year’s global custody winner, JPMorgan, has modelled its Middle East business on this strategy. The custodian has built out its local relationship management function in the past four years, introducing it in Dubai, Bahrain, Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

This year JPMorgan has gone several steps further to meet its clients’ needs such as launching a custody client service in Riyadh and opening an office in Qatar. The custodian also aims to expand its regional team in Abu Dhabi by the end of the year. According to JPMorgan, focusing on local client service has helped it to win two sovereign wealth fund mandates.

“We are very proud of our result in this year’s Global Investor/ISF Middle East Awards, winning the highly sought after Custodian of the Year accolade,” said Tim Peters, head of Mena at JPMorgan Worldwide Securities Services. “This recognition underscores our capabilities, strong partnerships and continued investment across the region.

Investors globally are becoming increasingly interested in collateral management services and this is no different in the Middle East. JPMorgan sees particular interest in collateral management, re-investment guidelines, currency hedging and transition management. The custodian says it has taken a more consultative approach to supporting its clients given developments in the way investors manage their exposures and counterparty risks. JPMorgan has responded to this demand by relocating one of its market experts from London to Abu Dhabi in order to discuss these topics with clients.

Keeping ahead of the game with new products is another must-have for custodian banks in the region. JPMorgan has been working with local market infrastructure and regulators to improve its local capabilities and regional custody delivery.

For example, in Saudi Arabia the custodian is working with the Tadawul stock exchange to introduce a new custody operating model ahead of the highly-anticipated liberalisation of foreign ownership. And in Qatar JPMorgan has joined forces with the local exchange to enhance the delivery versus payment (DVP) settlement model for sale trades. This led to the exchange changing process in order to reduce risk to the seller in the event of an error sale trade executed by the broker.

HSBC wins top sub-custodian second year running

HSBC rose above its competitors in sub-custody yet again after winning the prize in last year’s Global Investor/ISF Middle East Awards. HSBC’s long-standing reputation in the Middle East dates back to the early 1990s when it was the first bank to establish sub-custody services in Mena region.

“Our presence in the region since the 1990s reflects our long-term commitment to this region and over the years, given our close association with the local markets who regard us as the voice of institutional investors, we have built up a commanding level of expertise in the region,” said Arindam Das, regional head of Middle East and North Africa at HSBC Securities Services.

However, HSBC said it tries not to reply upon its first mover advantage, but instead aims to constantly innovate and strengthen its service proposition. This year, the sub-custodian’s achievements have ranged from winning key mandates, retaining its dominant market share, to driving market initiatives. HSBC has been working closely with market authorities in the UAE and Qatar on delivery versus payment (DVP) changes to address trade fails and safety of client assets.

It has also been involved in trying to reduce market charges and introduce a new clearing and settlement mechanism in Oman. In Lebanon HSBC has established an online connectivity with Midclear, and has led discussions with the Kuwait depository on the proposed account opening changes. Internally, the sub-custodian has been working on re-engineering its business process which it said has resulted in more aggressive settlement deadlines for its clients.

Das was positive about the future of the region’s markets: “The future looks promising, with the Middle East markets being clearly on a trajectory with an ambitious roadmap for reforms, be it on improvement to the post-trade environment, or introduction of new products like stock lending.” He said this level of change will lead to stronger markets and that this reflects the “dynamism and resilience of the underlying economies”.

Looking forward on a business level, HSBC said its commitment to the Mena region will remain firm and that it will continue to invest in its workforce and business infrastructure. The sub-custodian will look to focus particularly on innovation and transformation in order to win the satisfaction of its clients.

CIB was top FX provider in Middle East

CIB has held its position as the highest foreign exchange (FX) profit-making private bank in Egypt despite the slowdown in the Egyptian economy. CIB said the main ingredients to its competitive edge are “serer’s vice quality and very competitive pricing”. The FX desk made a net profit of EGP62m ($10m) in the first quarter of 2012 while trading volumes reached EGP100bn.

This year the bank has improved its Kondor Plus front office system to accommodate its workflow, and removing the manual part of the process, replacing it with more technology- enhanced reports. CIB now provides these reports for foreign currency sales for certain purposes such as letters of credit, documentary collections, trade outgoing transfers and loan debt conversion between a local and foreign currency. This removes any unnecessary manual work.

The Kondor system automatically provides a consolidated/overall bank currency position by updating the dealing room trad-serer’s position with the tiny transactions (less than $10,000) of the large branch network every couple of hours. CIB’s treasury department has also set up a connectivity port to the bank’s main trade finance business tools system – Misys TI Plus application.

According to the bank, its FX corporate desk has stayed ahead of the game by providing new hedge ideas and tailor-made products to suit each client’s business cash flow and risk tolerance. Traders also provide clients with daily fundamental and technical reviews on the local and foreign FX market as well as constant SMS notifications on market stance with the ability to place overnight orders, said CIB.

Looking forward, the bank’s ambition is to maintain its competitive edge in the region: “At CIB, our vision is to be the best financial institution in the Middle East and Africa and our mission is to provide the best financial solutions to our clients and create more value for our employees, shareholders, and community.”

Citi excells in cash and transition management

Citi’s regional cash management business has continued to outperform year-on-year as the team has strived to be a leader in this market. The bank’s history in the Middle East can be traced back to the 1950s when it became the first American bank in the region.

Citi provides cash management solutions to more than 65,000 corporations, financial institutions, governments and investment advisors in more than 160 countries. Solutions provided to these companies generates nearly $10bn in revenue annually with global payment flows as high as $9trn per day in 135 currencies.

“We are pleased to be awarded the Cash Manager of the Year award for the Middle East. This validates Citi’s leadership in furnishing cash management solutions based on a harmonised offering, expansive network and best-in-class products and services,” said Sanjay Sethi, head of treasury and trade solutions head for the Middle East at Citi.

Citi’s success is largely due to its global focus on driving product innovation as well its annual $1bn investment in technology. “We use our proprietary technology and partner with leading technology providers and key clients to develop cash and liquidity management, and electronic banking platforms or industry messaging standards that emphasise security, analytics/ intelligence, knowledge management and workgroup collaboration,” said Sethi.

This year Citi prioritised product innovation and development at a domestic level across the region. “We are diligently driving the innovation agenda forward to remain first-to-market provider of cash management and treasury solutions that meet clients’ demands for integration, efficiency and control, as well as differentiate us from other regional players,” said Sethi.

Citi was first to market in online banking by having its online platform fully functional in Arabic. Another development in 2012 was Citi’s multi-bank transaction initiation which allows clients to operate their accounts in countries where Citi does not have a physical presence.

The Citi Transition Management team has seen considerable growth in the Middle East region during the past 12 months, winning new clients and managing more transition events than in previous years, according to Steven Dalzell, head of transition management, Emea, at Citi.

“We are honoured to win this award, the Middle East is a very important region to our team and the broader Citigroup,” he adds.
The team has dealt with a number of large and complex transition events in the region during 2012. The events have spanned the full spectrum of asset classes, each with their own challenges in terms of liquidity, size and operational demands. Citi says that all these events were “meticulously planned, confidentially managed and executed in line with expectations”.

Citi believes it provides an offering superior to its competitors because it combines the best qualities of a broker-dealer and Citi Transaction Services to offer clients in the region a “seamless transition experience” including analysis, project management, trading and settlement, without having to outsource any component to a third party.

Aside from working with Citi’s custody clients, the team has also worked with other global custodians to complete transitions for clients across the region.

Dalzell believes that communication is key to success in the region. “Experience in the region has taught us that effective communication makes a significant difference to clients in the Middle East. Whether a transition is perceived as a success often depends on how well the project has been explained and communicated locally.”

He points out that effective communication can be challenging due to geographical distance between clients and their transition managers, as well as language barriers, cultural differences, different time zones and working days. In light of this, Dalzell says having presence on the ground is absolutely essential.

“Experience has taught us that there is no substitute for having a team member present in the client office throughout the duration of an assignment.

Taking this approach over a more traditional client management strategy has enabled Citi to build relationships and trust throughout client organisations quickly and effectively.

Deutsche Bank wins top administrator

Deutsche Bank has once again been picked by Global Investor/ ISF as the best fund administrator in the region. This is a significant achievement in what is a very competitive business. “With an ever increasing competitive landscape and changing regulatory market, we are delighted to receive for the third year in a row the Global Investor/ISF Middle East 2012 award for Best Fund Administrator,” said Mike Cowley, Mena head of direct securities services, Global Transaction Banking, Deutsche Bank.

The past 12 months have been very successful for the administrator, taking on more assets and clients. “We have seen strong growth in terms of assets under management and with our client base in the last 12 months and we will look to further deepen our relationships in the Middle East while continuing to work with the industry in what is still an evolving and developing environment,” Cowley added.

This year the business has continued to be at the forefront of market developments, adapting to new client needs and the changing marketplace. Over time the administrator has developed its back office outsourcing solution so that asset managers in the region can use Deutsche as a one-stop shop solution provider. Deutsche said it is able to deliver an integrated suite of services as well as standalone products, depending upon the needs of managers.

In 2011 the administrator further enhanced the value it delivers to clients and it interfaced with All Funds Bank to enable fund houses to odder their funds on the All Funds distribution platform. Deutsche has recently expanded its administration capabilities to include high-yield bonds, inflation-linked bonds and other fixed income instruments, supporting long-bias and shorts of future contracts investment strategies in fixed income. Valuation of fixed income has been a “critical area of support” where Deutsche supports yield to maturity valuations of fixed income securities.

Deutsche has also been working with regulators in the region on developing the industry. It has been working closely with the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) to fine tune the final rules for the governance of investment funds, and also to develop that Deutsche called a “worldclass standard of fund regulation”.

Simmons & Simmons was top law firm

Simmons & Simmons has offi ces in the DIFC, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia (in alliance with Hammad & Al-Mehdar), from which it can provide local law advice in each location. It has also developed a network of trusted correspondent counsel in all of the other jurisdictions in the Middle East.

The firm offers advice on the full range of legal and regulatory issues for institutional and specialist asset management firms operating in the region. Its knowledge in this area is also supplemented by a multiaward winning Islamic funds practice.

Simmons & Simmons says that what separates it from its competitors is its established and specialised funds practice based out of the Middle East. In addition to advising on the establishment of conventional funds, it also advises on the establishment of sharia compliant funds and regulations relating to marketing and selling funds and other investment products across the Middle East.

The partner leading the practice, Muneer Khan, has extensive experience of advising on Islamic financing structures, with a particular focus on sharia compliant investment funds and their financing arrangements, structured investment products and sukuk. He has developed a close working relationship with several of the world’s leading Islamic finance Shari’a scholars.

Khan said: “At Simmons & Simmons in the Middle East, we have been exceptionally active in recent years advising on both the establishment of funds as well as advising institutional and specialist asset management firms on their investments.

We have advised on a number of significant mandates in this field recently, including on the launch of the one of the largest multi-asset class sharia compliant umbrella funds in the world. We have also been very actively engaged in advising our regional and international asset management clients on recent regulatory developments in the Middle East, including the practical implications of the new UAE investment funds regulations. It is a testament to the support of our valued clients and the hard work of our team that we have been honoured with this award.”

The law firm adds that its award-winning online product, navigator, sets it apart from its competitors globally and in the Middle East. Navigator is a service that covers the distribution of open ended funds, distribution and dealing in securities, share disclosure and short selling and OTC and exchange-traded derivatives. It covers the entire GCC as well as most of the wider Middle East. The information contained in this subscription-only product is updated on a quarterly basis by the company’s lawyers in the Middle East.

Ernst & Young wins in accounting firm category

Ernst & Young says its long-term commitment to Mena is the most signifi cant of any global consultancy firm. Today, it employs more than 4,500 executives across the region, providing clients with a wide range of best in class services.

The accountancy firm said: “As it does in all countries in which it operates, the pursuit of excellence defines Ernst & Young’s work in Mena and it continues to raise standards through innovation and the adoption of cutting edge methodologies.

“Our commitment to developing staff through regular assessment and training ensures our Mena clients receive unrivalled counsel across our portfolio of business offerings. It is one of the reasons Ernst & Young continued to win new business throughout 2012 and regularly finished top of client satisfaction surveys.”

Ernst & Young has been in the Middle East for more than 80 years. The company says it is committed not only to improving business activity in Mena, but also to empowering citizens of Mena countries through training and employment opportunities.

According to Ernst & Young’s 2012 Rapid Growth Markets Forecast, Africa and the Middle East are well placed to succeed China as key manufacturing hubs for low cost goods. The report also predicts that exports from Africa and the Middle East are poised to grow by more than 12% over the next decade.

Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services employing 152,000 people worldwide.
The firm created its Emea Area in 2008, bringing together more than 73,000 people from 90 countries across Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa.

Ernst & Young has 20 offices in the Middle East, including 15 Arab countries. The number of people employed by Ernst & Young in the Middle East was 4,212 (as of 31 January 2010).

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