According to a recent study by Insight Discovery, the Gulf Cooperation Council private banking market is ‘complex, fragmented and opaque,’ but ‘developing more rapidly’ than in established markets such as Europe and North America.

Insight Discovery, a strategic research company specialising in stakeholder engagement and leadership insights, has investigated and revealed the competitive nature of the 61 banks in the GCC.

Dubai has been highlighted as a hub for most of the activity. 30 international banks, with headquarters in Europe or the United States, have offices in Dubai. The regional and local organisations have offices in at least one of the GCC countries. A common factor linking all of the private banks is their view of the region’s high-net-worth individuals, high in number and aggregate wealth, which present a unique opportunity.

Nigel Sillitoe, CEO of Insight Discovery, said: "Although the industry is notoriously opaque, it is still possible to gain clear insights into the trends that matter. There are undoubtedly opportunities for players with the correct strategies and ability to execute. However, there are also challenges, specific to the region, which will likely persist indefinitely."

Some doubt the amount of potential in the area. A number of private banks, at least five, have halted their branches in the GCC through sale or closure. However, there have been new entrants into the area, Nedbank Private Wealth and Arbuthnot Latham being two recent arrivals.

Around one quarter of the 61 banks are pursuing clients based in Saudi Arabia and the Levant. Despite the interest in the area, only two banks employ over 50 private bankers for the region, with six other banks employing between 26 and 50. Over half of the banks, 37 of them, only have between 1 and 15 private bankers in their GCC offices.