Vistra Insights

How Middle Eastern families’ corporate services needs are shifting

Heba Al Emara, Managing Director in the Middle East for Vistra, explains how the needs of clients in the region are changing as the next generation comes to the fore. And she outlines the motivations that drive clients’ decision-making when choosing which jurisdictions to rely on.

How are clients’ needs changing in the Middle East? 

There are a couple of important factors influencing families’ requirements. Many of the younger members were educated abroad for example and as they grow in influence within the family circle, they bring to the table a global outlook. There is hunger to do things differently, to innovate and to lead regionally and globally. 

Families continue to look at diversifying their business interests and are actively focused on succession. In part this has also be driven following the increased number of family disputes that have become public.

What are some of the generational contrasts that will shape the future in the region? 

Traditionally when families looked to invest abroad, it was in large into real estate – an asset class they were comfortable with – in the UK and the US for example. 
Global outlook, travel, social circle and the active participation of female members of local families who will be heading the family businesses and taking them in new directions.
We have conversations about the desire to diversify into multiple asset classes beyond real estate, technology is king to take the family business global, and discovering new emerging talent. 

Which are the preferred jurisdictions of clients seeking succession planning? 

The Channel Islands is favoured by many families and their advisors. Reputation, wealth of advise and knowledge available, and cultural understanding are some of the drivers.

What are the key factors influencing jurisdiction choices?

Experienced professionals that are able to navigate very personal emotional concerns and demonstrate an ability to sensitively address difficult circumstances should a dispute arise.
There is also a level of comfort from geographical familiarity and the language — the time zone is also a factor. 
Robust regulation and transparency are key when families map out their structuring decisions. Above all, the success, reputation and upkeep of the family name for many generations to come is the ultimate goal. 

Heba Khairallah Al Emara
Managing Director, Middle East, Vistra

Heba began her career in various legal and philanthropy roles in the City of London and later joined Orangefield Group (now Vistra) in 2012 as part of the UK client commercial advisory department.
She has a particular focus on HNWIs, UHNWIs and Family Offices from the Arabian Gulf. In collaboration with the client’s advisers, support extends to structuring their international personal and business assets, succession and implementing governance across generations.
Heba grew up in the Middle East, and is equally comfortable working in English and Arabic. She holds a degree in Law and has completed the Legal Practice Course at the University of Law, London.
In 2018 and 2017, Heba was named as one of eprivateclient’s ‘Top 35 Under 35’ professionals. Heba has also been shortlisted as Woman of the Year - Future Leaders in the Powerwomen Awards 2020.

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