Alireza Valizadeh, CEO of Julius Baer (Middle East) Ltd Image Credit: Supplied

Swiss wealth manager Julius Baer’s early confidence in Dubai as a global hub for finance, fintech and innovation two decades ago has been strongly validated by the meteoric rise of world-class institutions such as the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), according to a top executive of the private bank.

“Around 2004, Julius Baer believed that we must cater to emerging markets, and the Middle East and Africa are important and promising markets for us in terms of growth, so we decided to establish a presence here in Dubai at the DIFC,” Alireza Valizadeh, CEO of Julius Baer (Middle East) Ltd, told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.

The result was that Julius Baer procured License Number 1 from the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) in 2004, making it the first company in the financial centre, and has never looked back in its pursuit of wealth management and advisory for ultra-high net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), high net-worth individuals (HNWIs), institutional clients and family offices.

The rise of Julius Baer has coincided with the rapid growth of Dubai and the UAE as a hub for UHNWIs and HNWIs. According to a new report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the UAE’s financial wealth is expected to accelerate at a compound annual rate of 6.7 per cent to reach $1 trillion in 2026 from $700 billion last year, driven by growth in both financial and real assets.

The report said that while financial wealth in the GCC grew by 9 per cent to $7 trillion last year, financial wealth in the UAE grew by 20 per cent last year and the country recorded a net inflow of more than 2,000 millionaires, contributing 30 per cent of the total financial wealth in the GCC.

Proudly combining its Swiss heritage, an organisation with a 132-year-old history with an immaculate understanding of the regional requirements of clients, Julius Baer (Middle East) Ltd is well poised to help with the wealth management of this spectacular inflow of UHNWIs and HNWIs, said Valizadeh.

“Today, we have grown to be one of the largest wealth managers in the DIFC and our growth story mimics that of the DIFC and that of Dubai. We started with few employees back in 2004 and at present we are over 150 from across 25 nationalities representing the melting pot that is Dubai.”

During the intervening years, Dubai and the UAE have matured rapidly as a destination for global financial institutions, and the proof today is the number of major financial institutions operating with a base in the UAE, whether onshore or within the DIFC or the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).

“Specialised financial institutions such as global hedge funds have started to establish themselves in Dubai, some of them setting up platforms with their own traders,” Valizadeh said.

“Earlier these traders were in Europe, Singapore, London and Hong Kong. Now they are coming to Dubai and the UAE. I believe they are following the same thinking we had 18 years ago. When you are on the ground, you can truly understand the needs in a very detailed way and create what needs to be done for the benefit of your clients,” he added.

For Julius Baer in Dubai, this has meant being at the forefront of evolving market needs and building capabilities to better serve its clients.

“For instance, we have a fairly large team of experts in investment advisory who accompany relationship managers in their journey with the clients,” Valizadeh said. “We also have a credit structurer based in Dubai. While we don’t structure anything locally, it certainly helps us better understand the needs when we have someone on the ground. We offer similar capabilities locally in terms of wealth planning, and portfolio management. This is how we have built our capabilities and skills to serve our clients in the Middle East and Africa.”

As Dubai and the UAE emerge among the world’s most resilient economic regions following the pandemic, the Swiss wealth manager has sharpened its focus on discretionary portfolio management and advisory services for its clients. “This is backed by our bespoke research, supported by the right advice in terms of asset allocation and specific investment management,” Valizadeh said.

According to the CEO, succession and wealth planning are among the top needs of its regional clients and that’s why we also have local experts on our platform to fulfil these needs.

“Specifically in the UAE, a lot of the businesses are privately owned and some of them are already in the second, third or fourth generation. All of these have to be structured in a way that makes the transition very smooth. We give a lot of advice in that space,” he said.