Last updated: February 27, 2013 3:06 pm

Dubai governance institute appoints board

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Hawkamah, the Dubai International Financial Centre’s corporate governance body, has appointed its first board. The move comes after the respected DIFC chief economist, Nasser Saidi, abruptly left the centre last year.

The governance institute, founded in 2006, has faced an uphill struggle to improve corporate governance in the region, where weak boards often fail to balance the powers of corporate strongmen.

The DIFC, for example, has been affected by issues including conflicts of interest and fraud allegations against senior staff. High-ranking officials have also come under fire for conflicting business interests or for holding multiple board seats across the financial sector.

Chaired by the director-general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Hamad Buamim, Maryam al-Suwaidi of the UAE’s market regulator will act as vice-chairman.

The board also has Sameer al-Ansari, a longstanding Dubai executive who has resurfaced after 18 months out of the limelight.

Mr Ansari led Dubai International Capital, the private equity vehicle owned by Dubai’s ruler, through a high-profile boom into a huge bust during the global financial crisis. He then moved to Shuaa Capital, where he spent two years trying to turn round the lossmaking investment bank’s fortunes.

Hussein al-Banawi of Saudi Arabia has also joined the corporate governance body’s board. He is chairman and chief executive of the Banawi Industrial Group, the board of which also includes Mr Ansari.

The board also includes Peter Montagnon, an adviser to a UK council body aiming to improve corporate governance and financial reporting. Mr Montagnon was at the Financial Times for two decades, including a stint heading the Lex column.

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Rani Raad has been appointed chief commercial officer at CNN International, responsible for all commercial activity, its parent company Turner announced.

In a big promotion, London-based Mr Raad will take over global commercial responsibility for the satellite news channel, handling sales, business development and marketing. He will also retain his current responsibilities for managing the broadcasting operations of CNN in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa.

Raised in Dubai, the Lebanese national comes from a leading media family in the region: his father founded TBWA/RAAD, a Middle Eastern media agency spanning advertising and press relations based in Dubai.

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Standard Chartered has named Tom Emmet as head of mergers and acquisitions for the Middle East and north Africa. He arrives from the Royal Bank of Scotland, where he ran the corporate finance and equity capital markets business for the Middle East and Africa.

Mr Emmet’s appointment comes amid quiet optimism among the banking community that a surge in mergers in late 2012 could lead to a recovery in this poor performing sector in the year ahead.

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JPMorgan’s recent Middle Eastern hiring spree continues unabated – this time within its private banking arm.

As it ramps up its investment banking capacity in the region, the US bank has also appointed a new Middle East head for its private bank. Based in Geneva, Jonathan Conner will focus on expanding services across the region. He joined JPMorgan in 2007 from Citi, where had also managed private clients in the Middle East.

Ramsey Jallad, who joins from a Bahrain-based company managing the wealth of rich Gulf families, has been appointed executive director and senior banker within the same team in London. Before then, he worked at Standard Chartered in Manama.

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After a stint as chief economic adviser at the Saudi ministry of finance, John Sfakianakis has been appointed chief investment strategist at Riyadh-based Mohammed Alsubeaei & Sons Investment Company (Masic).

Mr Sfakianakis overseas a team responsible for the company’s investment portfolio, allocation and strategy. Masic’s investments include assets in Bank Albilad, Jadwa Investments, Fajr Capital and Gulf Capital. Others are in petrochemicals and refining, including Sipchem and Luberef.

Until August 2011 Mr Sfakianakis served as chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi.

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The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has hired its next president, Jean-Lou Chameau.

In a unanimous vote by the university’s executive committee and board of trustees, Mr Chameau will start as Kaust’s second president later this year, replacing Choon Fong Shih.

Kaust, set up under the umbrella of Saudi Arabia’s oil ministry, is an ambitious attempt to set up an educational “free-zone” in the kingdom, setting a higher bar for standards in a country beset by poor educational attainment.

As a coeducational environment, which opened its doors in 2009, the university is a controversial social experiment, prompting the ire of the kingdom’s conservatives.

Joining from the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, the Frenchman was educated at Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Arts et Metiers and received his PhD in civil engineering from Stanford University.

Kaust, located near Jeddah, hopes Mr Chameau will bring his multidisciplinary approach to research and education at Caltech, where he is credited with encouraging the development of programmes in areas of societal impact, including energy, medical science, and the environment.

“Because of its unique location, and its charter as a new international centre of learning and research, Kaust is positioned to have a dramatic impact on the kingdom and the world,” says Mr Chameau. “For that reason, it is more than a university; it is an undertaking of historic importance.”

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