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Standard Life branches out to the Middle East

EDINBURGH-based investment and pensions giant Standard Life has established its first office in the Middle East with a business in Dubai, as the emirate seeks to bounce back from the financial crisis.

The move comes just days after Standard Life announced plans to cut 139 jobs in the UK, most of them from its information technology and customer and marketing departments.

Standard Life has been granted a licence by the Dubai Financial Services Authority to establish a branch of Standard Life International within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, was known for its enormous building projects before being hit by the financial crisis.

Nathan Parnaby, chief executive of Standard Life's Asian and emerging markets businesses, said: "Dubai has bounced back remarkably strongly. It has had huge support from some of its neighbours.

"We can see the economic recovery coming through. We do not see it as particularly risky."

Standard Life's eight-strong team in Dubai will sell its offshore bond product through financial advisers, with much of the administration work being handled by staff in Dublin.

The DIFC is an independent jurisdiction under the UAE constitution with its own laws modelled on the English legal system.

Mr Parnaby said Standard Life was known by many financial advisers in the region. Longstanding Standard Life staffer Chris Divito has become regional chief executive with responsibility for the Middle East.

The target markets are European expatriates, non-resident Indians and a broader category of wealthy internationally mobile people.

This is much the same market as Standard Life is targeting through its Singapore office, which opened last month.

Mr Parnaby said: "We are not likely to open anywhere else in the short term."

He added: "Our long-term vision within the Middle East is to build a leading retail savings and investments business."

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