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The Tribune

A senior Andbank (Bahamas) executive believes the Bahamas can provide asset and investment portfolio diversification for funds flowing into the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from troubled Middle Eastern countries.

Werner Gruner, Andbank (Bahamas) director of private banking, recently visited the UAE as part of the delegation led by Tony Joudi, principal of FTC.

He returned to the Bahamas believing the Bahamas’ economic growth can be tied to the Middle East and North Africa, through the creation of mutual investment opportunities.

Mr Gruner said: “I have visited a number of countries in the Middle East, including Israel, Jordan, Lebanon – even Syria and Afghanistan. Because of the current instability in the region, a lot of money is flowing into the UAE.

“There is a need for geographical diversification, and the Bahamas is such an opportunity. There is a real interest in alternative financial centres in the Western Hemisphere as opposed to traditional players, such as Switzerland or London.

“Keith Davies, chief executrive of BISX, for example, was well received by both stock exchanges in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, who are interested in working more closely together with the Bahamas.

“However, as a banker, I am also interested to explore investments in the Middle East that can deliver superior returns to my clients in an environment of low interest rates.”

Mr Gruner, who is also director of foreign services for the Rotary Club of East Nassau, was received by the various rotary clubs across Dubai.

He added: “Rotary has noble initiatives in the region, including the empowerment of women and entrepreneurs as a whole in business.

“I spoke with Thoraya Al Awadhi, founder and owner of Thoraya Al Awadhi Group of Companies. After raising seven children, she decided to become an entrepreneur. Today, she conducts exhibitions that show case businesses owned by women. Ten per cent of entrepreneurs in the UAE’s private sector are women, which makes the UAE the leader in the region.”

Mr Gruner said: “Clearly, entrepreneurs are flourishing in Dubai, largely because I see that they maintain an innovative approach to international business.

“I believe that a UAE investor could benefit from investing in Bahamian property, for example, and using the Bahamas as a centre for their business operations in the West. The Bahamas carries such a powerful brand overseas, and I think Bahamians can capitalise on it much more.”

Mr Joudi invited a team of business professionals to the UAE representing different parts of the Bahamian economy after first visiting the region last October with Fred Mitchell, minister of foreign affairs, and Ryan Pinder, minister of financial services. The business delegation included Mario Carey, president and chief executive of Mario Carey Realty; Mr Davies; Andrew Rolle, the Sapphire Venture Fund’s administrator; George Hamalian, trader; and Seamus Lagan, mergers and acquisitions expert.