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More senior execs opting to live in Emirates and work globally

Furniture, Table, Desk Creative Commons/LinkedIn Sales Solutions
Experts predict that the trend of senior executives living in the UAE but working for overseas companies will further increase
  • Remote work visa lets residents work for overseas employers
  • Growing confidence that exec teams can run a business remotely
  • UAE ‘the perfect hunting ground’ for diverse and inclusive boardrooms

Global firms are increasingly looking to hire senior executives based in the UAE to work for them remotely, according to industry experts.

Deel, a headhunting company based in San Francisco, found that 89 percent of global roles it handled were for remote workers, with this figure rising to 97 percent in the UAE.

The company’s State of Global Hiring Report said overseas recruiters are hiring software engineers, product designers, front-end developers, sales specialists and trading contractors based in the UAE.

In March 2021 the UAE cabinet introduced a remote work visa, allowing UAE-based residents to work for overseas employers but remain living in the Gulf state. Gulf-based recruiters said the coronavirus pandemic had entrenched remote working patterns.

“The workplace as we know it has been massively disrupted as a result of the pandemic with distributed workplaces here to stay,” said Dubai-based Ben McCabe, founding partner of executive search firm McCabe + Partners.

“Companies winning in the war for talent are those that are breaking down borders and providing a remote-first culture.”

McCabe said the hiring trend initially focused on junior executives, but this has now expanded to include senior executives, such as managing partners and chief executives. He cited the example of a client who was the founder of a global, UK-based fashion brand, who had decided to set up a base in Dubai.

“They are able to run their operations from the region as the positioning of the UAE enables them to cover Europe, Middle East and Asia Pacific with well-connected flights daily to almost anywhere in the world. 

“There is growing confidence that executive teams can operate a business remotely. Boards are meeting more frequently online and even through the metaverse,” he said.

John Butterworth, the managing director of recruitment company, who is also based in Dubai, said he had noticed this trend was prevalent in the legal sector.

“We’ve seen a number of companies actively seeking to base their general counsel here, particularly in global industries like maritime and logistics, as legal is a classic cross-border shared service, serving many markets,” he said.

The pattern is supported by financial flows and activity. In December research from Digital Horizon, a venture capital firm headquartered in London, found that nearly a third of UK-based investors plan to look to the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) for venture capital deals in 2023.

McCabe said the fact Mena VC funding has bucked the global slowdown was also a factor in recruitment and where executives are choosing to live.

“With more private and public capital being deployed, founders of scale-up companies are following the money and talent migration to build their businesses.

“The UAE represents the perfect hunting ground for businesses seeking to embed diverse and inclusive boardrooms. So we anticipate the trend of senior executives living in the UAE but working for overseas companies to increase rapidly,” he said.