How to break into middle east from UK?


I am currently doing my strategy consulting internship in Germany/France in a growing boutique, run by ex-Mck(More than 10years) and Ph.Ds.

I did my internship in Asset Management for six months in a French boutique last year, where I managed a book of $10M(long equity trading) by myself under supervision of CEO. I learned a lot from both internships, however, I am worried about not having any brand name on your CV to land a job.

I will be doing UK MSc in Finance(Oxbridge/LSE) from this September til 2023 June-ish, and wondering how I could land a job in Middle East or Singapore without knowing nobody there.

I am Asian (Jap/Kor) who did Top 5 B-school Grande École programme. I can speak three languages, my mother tongue, English(apparently), and French(Fluently).

Do I have a shot at decent Porfolio Managing roles(Analyst I guess in the beginning)/finance roles or Strategy Consulting in Dubia/Qatar?

If not, what should I do to make this happen?

Thank you very much for taking off your time to read this post. 

Most Helpful

I can only speak for consulting, not portfolio management.

In terms of opportunities, they are definitely out there. 

Doha + Riyadh are hiring like crazy rn, Dubai hiring has mostly slowed down if not frozen. 

Your MSc, assuming decent grades, will be more than enough to satisfy academic reqs, even for MBB

Your experience is also good, nothing to worry about. 

I would say the biggest hurdle for you would be justifying your interest in the Middle East. If you can do that, I'm sure you'll do fine. Definitely make the most out of your MSc year to find some alumni who are working in the region and maybe find some way to tie your story to the region. Could be basing your dissertation on the region, or something else. Try and make some Saudi friends - if they're attending Oxbridge-level unis, most likely they're going to end up at MBB/PIF/other big hitters, and they'll likely have consultants in their networks. You'll also gain a lot of perspective on the region's culture, direction, aspirations etc. 

One last point is to think about what kind of work you're looking for. Strategy consulting is very public sector-heavy. If you're leaning towards financial institutions, stick with MBB/Kearney/OW as they'd have the best links with the big government funds and massive banks. Not a lot of firms prioritise private sector - Bain exclusively worked private until a few years ago when they made a huge push toward public, which coincided with their huge recruitment growth. If you're trying to best utilise your mother tongue by force, Roland Berger is the most well-known in automotive + manufacturing, so will be the most likely place to find use (lots of JVs happening in the region with East Asian businesses, and a lot of floor-manager level expats are East Asian/Singaporean. 

Ways to apply:

- Apply through normal channels (online app); if you prioritise Doha/Riyadh, you have a good chance of getting through that stage tbh

- Apply through fast-track scheme: Not sure what is out there that is accessible to you, but for example McKinsey has the Edad program which is for Arabic speakers interested in joining the ME office, where attendees are fast-tracked to interview stage. This increases your chances significantly, but the ones I know about are either for Arabic speakers or for GCC nationals.

- Get referred: much higher chances of getting an interview. The challenge here is finding someone you click with and who's willing to refer you properly. 

Hope this helps. :)

Thank you very much for your answer!

I am genuinely surprised by the quality of the answer.

If it's not too much to ask for, I would like to ask a few more questions.

I was wondering if you know total comps for a junior consultant at the spoken regions?

Some say it's comparable to US, however, I have no idea if that's true.

Also, W/L balance seems to be quite different from Europe. Is it sweaty?

I spoke with MBB consultants at Doha, who told me that it's 60-75hrs/w but weekends off.

I don't know if it's average there.

I appreciate your answer!

Happy to help :)

For the questions:

TC: I would imagine it's approx. The same as or just under US, but without the taxes (unless you're a US resident). I know for entry level MBB it's around 80k USD/yr. In local currency, MBB and tier 2 are probably around 25k+ SAR/UAE per month, and Big 4 are around 14-18k/month. As a foreigner, you'd likely get a relocation bonus on top of that, and if you intend on going KSA there's a bump in pay for Riyadh as well. 

WLB: it most definitely is worse than Europe. Not sure what you'd class as "sweaty" though. The real problem is that your clients often lack institutional maturity/professionalism, so you're often running into delays and roadblocks because of them while still being expected to deliver in the promised time. What this means is that deadlines would come up (the minister of x wants to run a workshop next week, the chairman of y wants to see a progress update tomorrow, etc.) That you're hauling ass to meet. By no means is it a constant grind though, you'll often have these weird periods of quiet while the client is off trying to get their letter to proceed signed or something. The lifestyle is very much work first like East Asia, but without the intensity of East Asia. 

 All in all:

comparing apples to apples, you'd be living a bougier lifestyle in ME vs EU, you'd make more money, and you're likely to get a lot more client exposure. You'll work longer hours (but not necessarily harder), but depending on your idea of "fun" you'll likely spend more for less on leisure. 

I've heard that trying to transfer back to EU/US/East Asia may be more difficult as ME experience is seen as quite niche and maybe (?) Lower quality, but I can't speak on that from experience. 

Can't help with moving directly to the Middle East from a masters, but if you end up in a buyside role in Europe you will start getting contacted by headhunters trying to persuade you to move to one of the big Middle East SWFs pretty quickly. I get nearly as many messages from recruiters about this type of role as I do about the MM platforms.

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