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HSBC ramps up Middle East UBS rivalry with eyes on Credit Suisse’s Qatar team

QIA’s investment in Credit Suisse dates back to the global financial crisis of 2008.

HSBC is currently in discussions to recruit a group of experienced wealth managers from Credit Suisse in Qatar, ramping up its Middle East expertise in a bid to rival UBS in the Gulf region.

UBS, which recently finalised its acquisition of Credit Suisse, would face a significant setback if it were to lose Aladdin Hangari, its CEO in Qatar, along with potentially five members of his team, the Financial Times reported.

The move would hinder UBS’s ambitions to establish the largest private bank in the region.

While negotiations between Hangari and HSBC are progressing, a definitive agreement has not yet been reached, according to a source privy to the situation.

UBS has been striving to retain its wealth managers from Credit Suisse, particularly in high-growth areas like the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

However, the disruption caused by the acquisition has created an opportunity for competitors to seize the moment.

Hangari plays a crucial role as a relationship manager for Credit Suisse in Qatar, a country that maintains strong ties with the bank. Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) is one of the bank’s prominent and long-standing shareholders. Credit Suisse has a dedicated team of 21 staff members focused on Qatar.

Credit Suisse provided banking services to some of the wealthiest individuals in Qatar, including Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani, the former prime minister and head of QIA, reports said. His son, Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al Thani, served as a board member at Credit Suisse for an extended period.

Aside from his role at Credit Suisse, Hangari also serves as the acting CEO of Aventicum Capital Management, a boutique asset management joint venture between Credit Suisse and QIA, overseeing approximately $1.5 billion in assets under management.

If Hangari were to depart, his successor at the bank would be confirmed within the next few weeks, coinciding with UBS’s announcement of roles for up to 1,500 managers at the third level of its corporate structure, as detailed by the source.

HSBC has been in Qatar since around 1954. However, like other international banks, it faced challenges in mid-2017 when neighbours Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt imposed an illegal blockade on the Gulf nation.

Saudi Arabia exerted pressure on international banks to limit their connections with Qatar, further intensifying the boycott.

QIA stands to lose roughly $330 million on its equity stake in Credit Suisse as a result of the sale to rival UBS, Reuters calculations showed.

Initially seen as a likely beneficiary of the existential threat faced by many of its rivals at the time – including UBS – a catalogue of subsequent missteps by Credit Suisse management and scandals erased billions of dollars of shareholder value.

QIA’s investment in Credit Suisse dates back to the global financial crisis of 2008.