DUBAI - Swiss private bank Lombard Odier plans to double its headcount in the United Arab Emirates within three years after obtaining a licence to operate from Dubai's financial centre, one of its senior executives told Reuters on Thursday.

The bank, which has had a representative office in Dubai, a major regional financial hub, for 17 years and a branch in Abu Dhabi since 2019, is expanding its UAE presence as part of a push to tap family wealth and a growing pool of entrepreneurs.

The "significant" influx of other nationalities in recent years, including European expatriates and those from the subcontinent, has led the bank to rethink its strategy for the region, Amer Malik, senior executive officer and head of the bank's Middle East International unit, said in an interview.

"The next logical step for us was to get an advisory licence in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), and now we are hiring and building up our platform here," Malik said, adding that he expects the current headcount of 17 people in the Dubai office to double within two to three years.

"What we are doing in Dubai is going to focus on entrepreneurs and private families, and that's where we can add the most amount of value."

While Saudi Arabia is a top market for Lombard Odier, which had total client assets of 300 billion Swiss francs ($327.01 billion) at the end of 2022, there are currently no plans to set up an office in the kingdom. The bank also offers a full sharia offering in the region that is compatible with Islamic law.

The global number of high net worth individuals (HNWI) dropped 3.3% to 21.7 million in 2022, but the Middle East's HNWI population increased 2.8%, according to Capgemini's 2023 wealth report.

"It is only natural for us to have a strong footprint in the Middle East, and that stems from the increasing political and financial stability which we are seeing here. It's not just about oil money; it's the investment that is happening in every other sector," Malik said.

($1 = 0.9174 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Rachna Uppal; Editing by Paul Simao)