World’s Best Private Banks 2021: Middle East

Large, fast-growing institutions based in the region are building up their private banking capacities, testing global ambitions and preparing for a generational wealth transfer.

While Arab private banking is still making its debut compared to the giants of the global industry, this year’s Middle East winners exhibit an exceptional mix of grassroots expertise and the capacity to address the same types and level of challenges as their global competitors.

In each of the region’s markets, the largest local banks are setting their sights on providing world-class private banking services while keeping a close eye on the specific needs of their elite domestic client base. A handful of these institutions are building their regional footprint while extending operations to new markets in Europe, Asia and Africa. That said, the biggest names in global private banking with a long presence in the Middle East—mostly from the UK, the US, France and Switzerland—are maintaining their profile and gaining market share in specific segments.

Methodology: Behind the Rankings

Global Finance staff select winners for these awards based on entries submitted by banks, company documents and public filings. No proprietary information was sought or shared in the awards process. We consider local market knowledge, global footprint and investment breadth and sophistication. Because metrics are rarely public in this sensitive corner of finance, we incorporate perspective from analysts and consultants. Performance data are also drawn from industry sources including Scorpio Partnership’s annual Global Private Banking Benchmark and Asian Private Banker magazine’s regional league tables. Size and growth are a factor, but Global Finance also considered creativity, uniqueness of offering and dedication to private banking as a core business either globally or regionally.



The Middle East’s biggest lender is also one of its safest and fastest growing, despite more than three years of a Saudi-led economic boycott. At home, Qatar National Bank (QNB) holds a 30% market share in private banking. It is also increasingly noticed abroad, with an active presence in over 31 countries stretching from Asia to Europe.

QNB caters to clients with an appetite for real estate and corporate investment, both onshore and offshore through divisions in Geneva, Paris and London. Close attention to the needs of the Middle East’s elite include a variety of special offerings such as personal stylist services at London’s Harrods department store and worldwide shipping insurance for luxury cars.

To match the expectations of the region’s growing customer base of young high net worth individuals, QNB has invested heavily in tech innovation, creating a diversified digital banking offer that includes mobile applications using face recognition, video link platforms and partnerships with telecommunication operators.


Standard Chartered

Standard Chartered reports stellar results for its Middle East private banking unit, with a sharp rise in assets under management and record revenues between 2019 and 2020. Confident it can grow its presence in tomorrow’s Arab world, the bank is building up its Middle East private banking team in Dubai. But how to maintain the momentum?

The Middle East’s wealthiest are expected to pass more than $1 trillion on to the next generation in coming years, and this transfer is at the heart of regional strategy for Standard Chartered. To cater to the increasing entrepreneurial ambitions of wealthy millennials and expand the younger component of its client base, the bank is relying on two pillars: digital wealth management and environmental, social and governance (ESG) portfolios, including Islamic finance and green investment. Support for entrepreneurship was at the core of Standard Chartered strategy before the Covid pandemic struck, and it remains so as the private banking industry and the rest of the world work their way out of the crisis. This year, the bank committed $1 billion to companies that provide goods and services to help the fight against Covid.



After more than 150 years catering to the Middle East’s wealthiest clients, Barclays now runs its regional operations from the Dubai International Financial Centre and targets customers with $5 million-plus in investable assets. The UK multinational bank is counting on its intrinsic knowledge of the local market and the region’s more prominent families to help it maintain its leading position as those families transfer their wealth to the next generation. A large international network, global investment channels and a strong footprint in Europe bolster Barclays’s case that it is a partner of choice for current Middle East business owners and their heirs.



In addition to a rapid pivot to digital to facilitate banking through quarantine conditions, Emirates NBD is helping to sustain the economy at home and keeping a close eye on homegrown new talent with the introduction of a funding platform that encourages its elite clients to invest in local startups. A board of Shariah scholars catering to the Saudi appetite for Islamic finance products as Emirates NBD seeks to serve clients across the wider region, and particularly in the fast-growing wealth management markets.