With recent new client wins, Insight Discovery, the award-winning Communications consultancy, is now handling the PR for five very different investment management clients, who are responsible for over US $4.5 trillion of assets.
But bear with me: there is more to this than the usual Linkedin “boast post” about how wonderful my consultancy is. Instead, I think this marks an interesting trend in how the world views the Gulf, and how the Gulf is relating to the world.
The question is: Why are these firms looking to raise their profiles in the region now? What has changed that has made the GCC an area of focus for these global organisations?
The region remains high-risk by any measure: war continues to rage in Yemen and Syria; tensions with Iran have perhaps never been higher; and the price of oil remains stubbornly below the break-even price for producers. This does not sound like the best time to invest.
But tension and geopolitical strife have been part and parcel of the Middle East since the 1940s and beyond. To an extent, operating in this context is standard procedure for international firms that want to do business here.
But I perceive a new mood among the international firms I talk to, and a sense that the region is now more interconnected with the world than ever before. I would go so far as to argue that there has been a fundamental shift in how the region is perceived, and how it relates to the global network of investment capital.
Several factors are driving this: The new reformist leadership in Saudi Arabia; a sense that problems must be solved from within, rather than at the UN or Camp David, and that governments are getting on with it; and the fact that, following a savage economic slowdown in 2009-13, the Gulf is today more mature and better able to be treated as an equal by the world’s economic superpowers.
The recent announcements of new partnerships between Abu Dhabi Investment Council and Mubadala, along with the joint venture announced between Emaar and Aldar, show that a new mood of pragmatism has arrived. The pending IPO of Emirates Global Aluminium (itself another Dubai/Abu Dhabi joint venture), and the creation of First Abu Dhabi Bank are other examples of this new pragmatic approach to achieving strategic economic objectives.
Those global asset managers that are renewing their focus on the Gulf are not taking a gamble. They can sense the new mood in the region, and have re-calibrated their outlooks. It’s time to prepare for a new chapter in this economic story.