The UK’s HSBC is shifting its focus in the Middle East away from Dubai in the wake of the Dubai World debt crisis.

The bank is moving the role of head of retail from Dubai to Egypt, and members of the investment banking team say they are also increasingly focusing on other markets in the region.

Among the changes, Declan Hegarty has been moved from the position of joint head of coverage for the Middle East, based in Dubai, to becoming head of HSBC in Abu Dhabi. His Dubai role has not been filled.

“There is very little activity in Dubai now,” says an HSBC investment banker still based in Dubai. “Most of our business is coming from places like Abu Dhabi and Qatar.”

A spokesman for the bank insists that Dubai remains a strong market. “Abu Dhabi has been a strong business centre for us for some time, but Dubai has also always been strong,” he says.

The focus for retail banking has also shifted with the appointment of a regional head of retail banking in Cairo, according to the spokesman.

“Egypt is the biggest retail market in the region and also the home of our regional service centre,” he says. “The growth in the importance of Egypt to HSBC Middle East is continuing. Having a regional retail banking head based in Egypt is just reflective of the new management, nothing more.”

In October 2009, the bank made 122 workers redundant in the UAE. Earlier in 2009, it had laid off about 90 people.

In a research report in November, the US’ JPMorgan said HSBC had exposure of about $17bn to the UAE market.