The GulfTalent.com website said 'Banking' has been the single most popular keyword searched for by job seekers online during the last quarter of 2005 in the Gulf.

Other frequently searched keywords included insurance, finance, risk, compliance and 'private equity'.

Overall one in every eight online job searches was related to the banking sector, said the website.

Demand from employers appeared equally strong with several banks reporting high growth projections.

Edris Bantan, a senior manager of HR Planning at Bank Aljazira, based in Saudi Arabia, said: "We are growing our headcount by 85% this year and planning to double in size again next year".

 "We are growing our headcount by 85% this year and planning to double in size again next year"

Edris Bantan,
HR Planning, Bank Aljazira
 

While most of the growth has been in retail banking, the corporate and investment sides of banking are facing a recruitment crunch.

An increasing number of vacancies are not being filled up quickly, with employers unable to find candidates with the right expertise easily. "Competition is becoming very vicious in the sector and there are not enough professionals in the market." said Bantan.

With finaniacial services booming, initiatives such as the DIFC in Dubai, Qatar Financial Centre and Bahrain Financial Harbour are bringing new international financial institutions to the region, both raising the standards and adding to the demand for recruiting services.

Meeting demand

Recent months have seen a number of UK-based financial recruitment firms moving in to set up operations in the Gulf.

While employer preferences have generally been for Gulf citizens, particularly in Saudi Arabia, the rapid growth of the sector is forcing banks to look far beyond.

Areas with the greatest demand-supply mismatch include private banking, corporate finance, compliance and certain specialisations within Islamic banking.

Declan Ball, head of Human Resources at Dubai Bank, said: 
"We are actively looking for product expertise in Islamic banking but the pool of good people with the required skills, as well as an understanding of customer service, is small."

"As all banks are fighting a war for talent, one of our approaches is to bring in people with business expertise and train them in Islamic Shariah concepts," he added.