Among the unsurprising beneficiaries of the economic meltdown have been financial advisors, as wage slaves saw once rock-solid investments decline in worth dramatically.
In that scenario, the independent financial advisory deVere Group has announced ambitious expansion plans across the Middle East and North Africa (Mena), with the opening of 19 offices across the region over the next three years, with an expectation of creating more than 300 jobs.
"In uncertain times people are more aware of the need for sound financial advice. It really is as simple as that and, as a result, uncertain times are exactly the right time for an IFA to expand," deVere Group Regional Director Spencer Lodge told Emirates Business.
He was unable to offer precise details on which markets exactly the company is looking at, saying, "our hands are tied until licences are issued". When asked specifically about emerging markets such as India, where the company has no presence yet, he said the Asian power was on the top of the group's expansion agenda.
The company, which has in excess of $7 billion (Dh25.7bn) of funds under administration and management and more than 50,000 clients in about 100 countries, began its expansion with a new office in Cairo last year, following established presences in Dubai, Oman and Abu Dhabi.
"We have also been gradually increasing the size of all our offices in the region and this will continue. For instance, we intend to double the size of our Dubai office within three years to about 170 personal finance professionals," Lodge said. "We are looking for at least a 50 per cent increase in business over the next year in the region. We took on 5,000 new clients across Mena last year and are looking to more than top this figure in 2010."
DeVere currently has 46 offices around the world and the expansion is in line with the company's stated ambitions of providing complete global coverage for its clients anywhere around the world. "Many expatriates like to deal with us as they know if and when they move to or spend time in another country, they should have an office in proximity," he said.
"Really we are looking to move anywhere where there are expatriates and we don't yet have a strong presence."
Lodge said most of the company's growth would be organic rather than through acquisitions. "We prefer to promote from within, but are keeping an open mind during this exciting period for deVere Group. I predict around 10 per cent of the expansion will be through acquisitions and 90 per cent will be organic."
He said the majority of the 300 new jobs created will be for investment co-ordinators and investment consultants and that deVere has already begun its recruitment process. Currently, Mena equates to around a third of deVere's total business, he said. The privately held firm does not announce its earnings publicly, but Lodge said its operations in the region over the past eight years have posted an average growth of 40 per cent each year.
One growth area the company is looking at, he said, is the deVere fund platform, which was launched in 2009 in line with consumer demand for more online solutions, attracted by factors such as immediate valuations, increased control and speed of access to investment funds.
"Increasing numbers of internet-savvy investors are catching on and learning about the tool," he said.
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