Q&A: Want to work for Barclays’ Middle East wealth management division? Its MD tells you how

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Rory Gilbert, managing director and head of wealth and investment management for MENA at Barclays, moved to the Middle East in September last year as part of the firm’s ongoing expansion in the region. This year, Barclays has unveiled a number of senior hires and has an appetite to recruit more next year. Could you make the cut?

Barclays has been relatively active recruiting for its wealth management division in the Middle East this year. Can you give us an idea of your plans for the rest of the year and into 2013?

We have done a lot of hiring this year and, while we’re anticipating continued growth, the remainder of 2012 will be focused on bedding down the people we’ve taken on.

Next year, we’re unlikely to be indulging in as much recruitment and will instead focus on hiring selectively when we come across individuals we like or who have interesting backgrounds or skills that can make a difference to our clients.

Can you give an example of the sort of background you find interesting?

The point is that we’re not only interested in hiring private bankers, or even people with a financial services background. The pool of talent in the Middle East is thin, and if we just focus on private bankers, we’ll find that our options are limited.

Technical skills can be developed, but we also want to see evidence of a very strong ethical approach and an ability to build and maintain relationships. An example of this is the service industry – if you work in hospitality or retail, it’s likely that your client servicing skills are strong and we could learn a lot from these people. We have to be open-minded about the people we take on – there’s no one industry we recruit from.

Are you only interested in hiring at a senior level?

No, we’re looking across the range of seniority.  The advantage of recruiting junior people is that you can really help them become part of the culture of the organisation, whereas more senior hires are often brought in to provide a solution or outcome for you very quickly.

Why do you think so many international wealth managers are building their teams in the Middle East?

It’s a region where there’s significant growth potential. Not only is there a huge amount of oil and hydrocarbon wealth, which currently presents an opportunity for wealth managers to help people with substantial investable assets, but the Middle East – and the UAE in particular – is very entrepreneurial, which means wealth will continue to be created in the long term. This provides a good, sustainable base for an organisation to build a presence here.

What are the challenges finding wealth management talent in the Middle East?

In the Middle East, you have a significant amount of demand, limited by supply, for the same set of skills. It’s hard to find the right blend of technical, interpersonal and client skills. Someone might be a good chap, which means they have strong interpersonal skills, but this business is ultimately about servicing clients. You’re dealing with people with substantial wealth, which means confidentiality, rigour and attention to detail are crucial. This combination of skills is quite rare.

Have you seen an increase in interest in the Middle East from wealth management professionals currently working elsewhere? Is such a move feasible?

It’s certainly challenging, since private bankers typically need a network of clients on the ground in the market they operate. We do, however, encourage cross boarder mobility within Barclays for individuals who have been very successful in their roles and provide them with the opportunity to replicate that success in the Middle East.

We have moved quite a few people to the MENA region, with high hopes that their skills and energy will enable them to build up a network of clients over time. It’s rewarding and key to retaining talent.

Imagine you’re only allowed to hire one person in the next three months. Describe their ideal profile.

I don’t think I can, since we recruit so many different types of people! Any recruit needs that blend of technical, client and interpersonal skills, but they also need to be loyal and, most importantly, ethical. Wealth management is all about reputation, reputation, reputation and if you let the wrong person into the organisation who can endanger that bond of trust you have with a client then the consequences can be damaging.

What three things would you advise someone always to do before stepping into interview with you?

Be prepared; understand the role you’re going for, the institution you’re applying to and the person you’re interviewing with. Secondly, be honest, and I mean this in the sense of your motivations for taking the role, why it’s suited to who you are and what you’re really looking for. If you’re disingenuous in the interview, you’re unlikely to find what you want in a job.

Finally, enjoy it. You should think of an interview as a form of mutual due diligence between interviewer and interviewee and make sure the conversation is open and relaxed – but definitely not casual – to ensure that both parties find out as much as possible. Recently, I was interviewing someone and thought that I really wanted to get along with the person, but for some reason it wasn’t clicking. We stopped, rescheduled the meeting for a week later and next time we had a great conversation. He now works here.

What features can someone exhibit to ensure they’re NOT hired by you?

Again, it goes back to this ethical and moral code, which in our industry we’ve learned not to take for granted. If I ever get the sense that they’re not being entirely truthful with me during an interview, I usually stop it there. If they can’t show integrity during an interview, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do so with a client.

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