ING Investment Management is opening an office in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and hopes to have its registration finalised by DIFC authorities by October.

The new office will cover not only Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, but the entire Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region. Grant Bailey is moving to Dubai to run the business, having served as CEO of ING IMÆs Australia business since 2003. His Australia role will be assumed by David McClatchy, now CIO and deputy CEO, as of 1 October.

Bailey will report to Hong Kong-based Asia Pacific CEO Chris Ryan. ôThere is growing cross-investment between Asia and the Middle East, and that was a big factorö in the decision to enfold Dubai within the firmÆs Asia business, Ryan explains.

Although the initial activity will be sales and marketing, the office in DIFC is being equipped as an investment centre as well, with the necessary IT, operations, risk management and compliance infrastructure. The firm will look to hire a CIO and analysts over the next two years to produce local equity and cash products, Ryan says.

ING IMÆs goal is to win business from the regionÆs rising wealth-management industry. Private banks as well as international and local commercial banks are setting up wealth-management units. Secondly, ING will target institutional investors, particularly the universe beyond the big state investment companies, such as corporations and private investment companies that have accumulated considerable asset sizes over the past few years.

Ryan says the firm has several distribution agreements already signed, that it will hope to expand over the coming months.

DIFC is an onshore jurisdiction of the UAE with its own regulators, courts and laws modelled after British and Australian designs, and is being used as a hub for many financial services companies doing business in the region. DIFC-registered companies must be physically based within the DIFCÆs office complex; space is an issue because much of the DIFC land remains under development, but Ryan says ING IM has secured a slot.

For an in-depth look at fund management opportunities in the Gulf, see the upcoming October edition of AsianInvestor magazine.