MF PE to MENA, bad idea?

All,Thank you for taking the time to reading me. Asking for advice here as I tried to get a sense of what life in the Middle East (UAE) could be , but so far had a poor success rate when trying to cold-messaging people on LinkedIn.

A bit of background:

  • Associate at what some would call a MF or large fund (real estate team)
  • London based, but originally from another western EU country

The idea: London has been good so far, but somehow I intended to get back to my home country on the short/medium term. Thing is, there is not really MF presence there, so I would take a pay cut but still live decently as I should be able to make it to top local shops due to my current experience.However, I recently heard from relatives about very lucrative positions in Dubai/Abu Dhabi, great lifestyle for families (housing, car and other expat allowances, no tax, etc.). I am now thinking about a potential move there for a few years (stacking cash ++) before coming back, but I also heard that whatever my previous experience was, it would be heavily discounted/complicated to come back due to being in the MENA region. I must admit that weather + chill lifestyle (better hours at top SWFs) + stacking cash sounds pretty appealing to me (+ potential connections to wealthy people for fundraising).

Any thoughts would be appreciated.


Honestly, no, I mean, I have heard people say all of your contacts are now from that part of the world, but to me, that doesn't make sense. Suppose you are investing on an LP basis globally or, more specifically, in Europe, the US, etc. I don't understand how that makes any sense because if you're the capital provider, why do your connections to the smaller, more localized GPs make a difference?  Maybe I am missing something but it just doesn't make sense to me.


Understood. That does not make sense to me as well, especially as large SWFs have also direct investment capacity now. I have been working on a few deals recently (South Europe) and they were competing against us in several processes, which makes it harder as they have a very low cost of capital from what I know. In that case, they have not only direct relationships with EU/US brokers, but also investment bankers and other funds when co-investing.


It’s largely a pedigree thing same reason why experience in London is perceived as more appealing than Paris or Berlin for example and they are in close proximity.

From what I have seen it’s harder for these euro guys to get into London than people actually in the market not only because they are easily onboarded but also the assumption that the best people are already operating in the market.

On ME, my personal opinion is that it’s a cash out you enjoy the benefits but you largely dull your blade in the competitive markets regardless of deal flow. (i.e the market assumes you made the move because you couldn’t make it in prime time).

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Know a few juniors and seniors who made the move. The reason is always one: money. And everyone knows it. I’d split it by seniority:

  • At very junior level a couple of years in ME won’t hurt: you can spin it as exploring different cultures etc. It’s almost financially equivalent to remaining in London.
  • At mid-level (think Associate/VP) it’s a very bad move: these are the 5-10 years when you build your professional relationships. You can definitely build your network in the ME but as you are switching being hired from “what I know” to “whom I know”, it will be hard to justify your value-add when you want to move back to Europe / US. The difference in economics won’t make up for what you lose professionally.
  • As senior (think 15y+ experience, team head) moving to the ME is many times a family choice (private schools, significant expat benefits). If you want to come back you can afford not to work for a couple of years thanks to the wealth you created for yourself while in the ME.

OP here - thanks for this! Just wanted to understand your second point as I would move at the associate/senior associate level. SWFs tends to invest massively in Europe, meaning that you are on a daily or weekly basis discussing with EU counterparts, working on EU deals as well. How is that really different from being in major EU cities to build your network?

Also, what about staying until director/MD position, stack a lot of cash and build a network of wealthy Middle Eastern guys? Can it be seen as valuable for fundraising or co-investing/JV partnering?


Likelihood is you wont make D, and definitely not MD through internal promotions. These seem reserved for locals or external hires.

I agree with other parts of your post, if you're in Real Estate in a ME SWF you'll be covering Europe, not local investments. Your network will be European GPs, lawyers, advisors, IBs etc. I can't see it being an easy transfer to very reputable fund, but it's a pretty obvious crossover for the larger pension funds / SWFs (ex: CPP / GIC etc) who have offices in London and would be targetting the same type of investments. Important caveat is that this assumes you're at a reputable SWF like ADIA, not some local prince's play thing.


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