Simon Penney is to promote trade and investment in the Middle East as new HM trade commissioner under the UK department for international trade (DIT).

Joining the public sector for the first time, Penney has been working in consultancy, having left his role of head of wholesale and international banking at First Gulf Bank back in 2016. Prior to this, he was Middle East and Africa chief executive officer at RBS.

Starting in July, Penney will raise the profile of the Middle Eastern region in the UK and build stronger and deeper trading relationships. He will co-operate with HM ambassadors, high commissioners and other government colleagues to enhance UK trade and prosperity.

“There is vast appetite for British goods and services in the region and huge numbers of Middle Eastern investors looking to invest in the UK,” says Penney. “The UK’s trade relationship with the region is already strong, but its true potential has not yet been tapped.”

Liam Fox, the UK’s international trade secretary, confirmed the appointment on a trip to government and industry representatives in Bahrain and the UAE to boost trade and promote more than 68 UK projects worth £30bn to investors.

Fox says of Penney’s hire: “The knowledge, contacts and business nous he brings will be a boost to all firms looking to do business in the region. As the UK develops its first independent trade policy in more than 40 years, the opportunity for British firms to trade with markets like the Middle East has never been greater.”

Penney is the sixth trade commissioner to be announced by DIT following appointments for North America, China, the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, Latin America and South Asia.