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23-04-2012 - Arab News

Saudi women expanding wealth management role

A prestigious forum is being held in Jeddah today to help women in the Kingdom to improve their understanding of real estate investments, focusing particularly on the British market.

It will take place at Dar Al-Hekma College, a private, non-profit institution of higher education for women.

"This is the first of its kind event in Saudi Arabia. This is an educational initiative to equip Saudi women with a tool to invest in real estate in the UK," said Azeemeh Zaheer, vice president of London-based Gatehouse Bank and a key presenter at the special forum.

Gatehouse, a Shariah-compliant bank, is holding the event in partnership with CBRE.

"Saudi women getting more and more involved in wealth management. This is a big change compared to five to 10 years ago," Azeemeh told Arab News yesterday.

She said: "Women control 22 percent of the $ 7 trillion assets under management in the Middle East. This makes them an extremely influential investor group."

Azeemeh added: "These women are an inspiring segment of the business and investor landscape. At the forum, we hope to give them a solid understanding of what real estate investment can do for them - to generate and preserve their wealth for the benefit of their family and their own well being. Helping boost their long-term wealth preservation, while observing their specific needs for security and safety in financial products that appeal to their risk appetite."

She said: "As a Shariah-compliant bank, Gatehouse has gained extensive working experience in the GCC and over time we have developed a deep network of relationships with an increasing number of professional women clients."

Azeemeh said Muna AbuSulayman, a leading Saudi figure and Arab media personality in the Middle East, is a keynote speaker at the forum.

Leadership ME was conducted in collaboration with CBRE, a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company that is the world's largest commercial real estate services firm.

Karen Queen, executive director of capital markets at CBRE, another presenter at the forum, said: "We are pleased to be partnering with Gatehouse and Dar Al-Hekma at this inspiring forum for women in Jeddah to discuss real estate fundamentals."

She said: "London and the UK remain an attractive location for real estate investment, and characteristically more than a large percent of potential investors believe that the UK was the best place to spend their money. We acknowledge that women will continue to play an influential role as part of this landscape, and our aim is to empower them with more insights and information to help them access opportunities for wealth creation and preservation."

Queen said the Middle East investors have invested 4.2 billion euros in the UK property market in 2011.

"The half of the total investment in the UK property market came from non-European buyers," she pointed out.

"The major investment came from North America and a large sum came from the Middle East. The major non-European buyers into the UK property market include North America (over 13 billion euros), Asia (5 billion euros), and Australia (0.9 billion euros)," Queen added.

Azeemeh said Gatehouse Bank provides Shariah-compliant financing for real estate transactions.

She said Gatehouse Bank were actively realizing business in the Saudi, most recently, working with a CMA regulated Shariah-compliant financial services company based in Saudi Arabia, Sidra Capital to launch a 100 million-pound real estate fund called "SURF".

On the UK real estate market, Queen said: "Women are looking for safe havens and the UK is ultimate safe place for commercial real estate. The market is transparent and the tax system is flexible."

Dar Al-Hekma College will be hosting this forum for business students, alumni, and professional working women. The forum will help attendees gain knowledge on ways of improving their understanding of real estate investment fundamentals, and specifically learning how to invest in dynamic markets of London and the UK.


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