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Bankers target Dubai for jobs

Kelly McEvers Nov 21, 2008

Bankers target Dubai for jobs

Kelly McEvers Nov 21, 2008


Scott Jagow: When you add up all the layoffs — Citigroup’s 52,000, JP Morgan Chase several thousand, there’s a long list — there are a lot of people in the financial industry out of work. One report says the industry could eliminate more than 350,000 jobs worldwide by next year. So what’s a banker to do? Where, there’s always Dubai, but be sure to bring a big stack of resumes. Here’s Kelly McEvers.

Kelly McEvers: Last year, when the credit crunch began in earnest, the saying at financial firms was “Dubai, Mumbai, Shanghai, or goodbye.” Meaning if you wanted to keep your job, you had to be shipped off to one of these emerging markets.

Now that things have gotten worse, people are having to make the move themselves. Which brings us to the tale of two Wall Street investment bankers.

Banker number one is Long Pham. He first considered leaving Bank of America this spring. A mentor suggested Dubai, which was becoming a major financial services hub.

Long Pham: I said, “That sounds intriguing, but I don’t know Arabic.” And he said, ‘Doesn’t matter — 80 percent of the people in that town don’t speak Arabic.

Not long after, Pham had a phone interview with a Dubai investment firm. And landed the job, sight unseen. Now he works in an office with a stunning view of Dubai’s over-the-top architecture.

Banker number two is Desi Duncker. He didn’t start looking for a new job until this summer, after he was laid off by Goldman Sachs. His first phone interview with a major Dubai fund was . . .

Desi Duncker: Going great except when they started talking about my interest in the Middle East.

And Duncker said he had no experience in this region.

Duncker: Then that was when the tone of the interview changed, and that was when I realized that to make my story more credible I had to be here.

So Duncker dipped into his severance package to fly here and stay in hotels while he looked for jobs. He’s had interviews with his top two choices, but no offers yet.

Zeta Yarwood is A Dubai-based recruiter. She says the job market here has gotten so competitive, candidates who once were shoe-ins now have a hard time getting their resumes noticed.

Zeta Yarwood: And you go through your file and you’ve got maybe two or three guys with obviously different names but exactly the same experience, exactly the same company. So not only are they sort of competing against their competitors, they’re competing against their colleagues.

Yarwood says experience doing business with emerging markets will differentiate a candidate from the pack. And some language skills wouldn’t hurt either.

In Dubai, I’m Kelly McEvers for Marketplace.

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