Many Dubai bankers are handing in their notices, tempted by the temptation of cashing out, stock
options, and share awards at startups, despite deal costs in the Gulf area being a fraction of those in
other markets.
One of them is veteran investment banker Omar Abuinnab. In December, he departed Guggenheim
Partners’ Middle East branch to create Keyper, a Dubai-based real estate technology firm.
Keyper, which began operations in January, describes itself as a private banker for real estate
investors. According to a KPMG research from 2020, such “proptech” firms are a developing global
market that has attracted $2.6 billion in global investment in 2019, up from $1 billion in 2016.
Abuinnab isn’t the only one. Youssef Salem, a former Moelis & Co banker, joined Swvl, a Dubai-based
transportation firm that announced a merger with Queen’s Gambit in July. Swvl was valued at around
$1.5 billion in the acquisition.
Amit Agarwal, a former Goldman Sachs executive, has joined TruKKer, a Middle Eastern logistics and
haulage technology startup, as group chief financial officer.
“People used to go into investment banking because it was one of the best-paying jobs. They’re now
attempting to create unicorns “Abuinnab was referring to companies with a market capitalization of $1
billion or more.
The success stories from Dubai’s tech sector have piqued people’s interest in the industry.
Amazon’s $580 million purchase of Middle Eastern online retailer Souq.com in 2017 sparked a flurry of
mergers in the industry, including Uber’s $3.1 billion purchase of ride-hailing company Careem in
2019.
However, compared to agreements in other locations, the payoff for bankers can be small.
According to a prospectus filed in September, Saudi Telecom Co’s tech company Arabian Internet and
Communications Services Co claimed it would spend $12 million in fees for its first public offering.

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