The business established an on-the-ground presence in the Gulf in 2002, operating out of offices in the Kingdom of Bahrain and later, Kuwait, but made its first inroads in the region in the late 1980s, when it packaged and launched a large European equity investment fund for a club of Gulf financial institutions. The fund was co-managed with an institutional client, and the success of the initiative, and subsequent spin-off business, encouraged the Bank to see the Investment Partners (IP) business as a strategic necessity. As a result, in the early 1990s, Marc Raynaud, a senior marketing executive, was briefed to begin to develop relationships across the region. Raynaud was based in Paris but travelled regularly to the Gulf as its potential quickly became evident, given the increasing flow of new businesses coming through the door.
It soon became very clear that full-time resources should be dedicated to the region, both to continue developing new business and to manage the relationships with existing clients, and ultimately a full presence needed to be established. On the one hand, the business would gain a better feel for the local culture and regulatory environment and on the other, the team would be able to get closer to clients and better understand their appetite for, or aversion to, risk, their needs, goals, concerns, and decision-making processes.
Eric Lafeuille, Regional Manager for the Middle East at BNP Paribas Investment Partners (IP) from 1999 to 2006, moved with his family to Bahrain to open the IP office in January 2002.
The Kingdom of Bahrain had recently become the base for the Group s regional head office for the Gulf, and Lafeuille quickly settled down. He hired local asset management professionals and the business line began to take shape, with IP establishing a physical presence and following in the footsteps of the Financial Institutions Group (FIG) and a number of other Group businesses, which were already on the ground in Manama.
Tariq Al Samahiji, who became Head of BNP Paribas Investment Partners in the Middle East in 2006 and was one of the first to join Lafeuille s team, recalls the modest beginnings of the business: We started off with two people in 2002, and assets under management standing at US$200 million. We had to build everything from scratch client segmentation, product prioritisation, business strategy, action plan and so on. We focused our development strategy on central banks, government agencies and institutions, sovereign wealth funds and supranational institutions.
However, the decision by BNP Paribas Investment Partners to put people on the ground soon began to pay off. Lafeuille explains why the move was a game-changer for the business: Gulf institutions are, broadly speaking, no different from any other large institutional investor the world over. Perhaps the basic differentiating characteristic of the Gulf is the degree of personal interaction required to achieve the optimal comfort level for relationships to form and grow, Lafeuille said. At the end of the day, relationships are based on personal trust, but probably more so in the Gulf than anywhere else in the world. The suitcase bankers who fly in to distribute their latest products do serve a purpose
Investment Solutions seminars bring BNP Paribas executives to the Kingdom of Bahrain
The inaugural BNP Paribas MEA Investment Solutions (IS) Day was staged in the Kingdom of Bahrain in June 2011, hosted by Jacques d Estais, Head of Investment Solutions and Jean-Christophe Durand.
Attended by representatives from across the region and Europe, as well as external speakers, the event brought together global business lines to review and collaborate on the strategic Investment Solutions plan for the Middle East and Africa region. Discussions on the team s objectives led by Jacques d Estais and Jean-Christophe Durand were followed by a presentation from H.E. Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of the Kingdom of Bahrain, who delivered valuable insights on the institution.
With the event proving to be a success, BNP Paribas management in the region decided to make the strategy session an annual event, bringing together senior members from the different components of the Investment Solutions division, namely Wealth Management, Investment Partners, Securities Services and Real Estate, but also from the Corporate & Investment Banking regional teams.
The presence of global divisional heads allowed for fruitful discussion on how to build further synergies between Investment Solutions and Corporate & Investment Banking and how to better meet the evolving needs of clients from the Middle East and Africa region. For example, in 2013, Alain Papiasse, Head of Corporate & Investment Banking (CIB), also joined Jacques d Estais and Jean-Christophe Durand at the event.
Speaking at the event, Jacques d Estais underlined the potential in the region for BNP Paribas Investment Solutions division: In a global environment that has undoubtedly become more difficult for banks and financial institutions, the Middle East remains a cash-rich, appealing and growing region, he said. The Investment Solutions business lines have performed quite well so far, in line
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