Tuesday 16, May 2017 by Nabilah Annuar

Building the future

EIBFS sheds light on how banks in the UAE are charting the course for tomorrow's leaders.

As the 21st century progresses, business leaders will be expected to deliver on several challenging fronts. An essential measure of their success will be their ability to manage multiple stakeholders who bring different values and attitudes to the table, in a business world where economic volatility is the rule. Moreover, they will have to be masters of new skills such as data crunching, understanding analytics and other cutting-edge technologies.

It’s not surprising that when PwC in 2016 asked Middle Eastern and Global CEOs to identify their topmost priority, both groups agreed (51 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively) that securing a ‘pipeline of leaders for tomorrow’ who could navigate such a changed business landscape was their highest concern.

Preparing for the next generation of business leaders

Several parts of the Middle East are actively building talent pools to mould leaders of tomorrow. In a separate PwC study titled Middle East Chief Human Resources Officer Survey (CHRO), 84 per cent of the respondents said that they have a leadership programme in place.

For member states of the GCC, the urgent objective is to attract and groom their own nationals to occupy leadership positions. They are approaching the same challenge in various ways. The UAE and Saudi Arabia focus more on programmes that impart professional training and development. On the other hand, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman rely more on a system of incentives that includes financial compensation, associated benefits and flexible working hours, the CHRO study pointed out.

Each business and industry in the GCC region is also carving its own approach to shape its leaders of tomorrow. In the UAE’s financial sector, banks have launched unique programmes to create career paths for UAE nationals. Such programmes not only hone their business skills and strategic perspectives, but also enable individuals to emerge as senior professionals within their organisations. The ultimate goal is that in due course, the best and the brightest will take over the mantle from the current generation of CEOs.

A good example of such effort is IRTIQA—a targeted programme recently developed by RAKBANK specifically for UAE nationals.

Susan Gardner, Director, Group Human Resources, RAKBANK, explains, “The main objective of ‘IRTIQA’, a two-year Management Associate programme, is to provide fresh Emirati graduates with a fast track career path and a variety of learning and development opportunities to take advantage of, so as to enable them to successfully handle a managerial position upon completion of the programme.”

Gardner added that “the development of a robust succession planning is also key to providing momentum and overall direction for UAE nationals to be groomed into more senior positions.”

Academic institutions shaping tomorrow's leaders

Besides their own internal training and mentoring programmes, banks have also tied up with Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS), the country’s leading training and educational organisation that plays an important role in the development of UAE nationals into leaders.

EIBFS’s leadership awareness and leadership development programmes provide talented, mid-management level, finance professionals with a platform to advance their critical leadership skills in a crowded and challenging market. The Institute has partnered with the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia in the US to create the Leadership Development programme (LDP), which responds to the needs of each individual and enhances their capabilities in leading their team to execute their plans. 

Jamal Al Jassmi, General Manager at EIBFS, elaborates, “In line with the government’s priority to encourage UAE nationals to opt for the financial sector, it is important for the banking and financial industry to have a structured progression plan in place. In this regard, EIBFS’s various training and leadership programmes, including the one with the Darden School of Business, play an important role in nurturing Emirati talent in terms of their development of business management skills in the highly competitive financial sector.”

Jassmi explains that EIBFS is not just committed to developing leadership aptitude and competency in Emirati youth, but is also continuously fostering a 'can-do' spirit that is directly linked to their organisation’s business strategy and desired outcomes. "The current middle-level managers are equipped with the necessary mindset and skill-set, and are on track to eventually assume top management roles. In the process, they are inspiring the next generation of UAE nationals,” he adds.

Strategically, EIBFS is also a partner of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization and Government Accelerators programme, and as the academic pillar is helping build and leverage partnerships in public and private sectors. The partnerships seek to secure a steady supply of qualified UAE nationals to drive and sustain growth in the UAE's financial sector.

Noor Bank, one of the country’s leading Islamic banks, boasts several UAE nationals in senior managerial positions, including in departments such as Corporate Banking, Treasury, Compliance, Human Resources, Consumer Finance—all led by their CEO, Hussain Al Qemzi, also a UAE national.

Hind Al Attar, Head of Human Resources at Noor Bank, explained why the institution has succeeded in bringing a large number of talented UAE nationals to serve in key positions. "Many of our senior officers are 'home grown—they have risen through the ranks, which is a result of our policies that are aimed at inspiring people to excel and thrive. We have a clearly-defined career strategy coupled with a succession planning philosophy for UAE nationals, which is deeply ingrained in our DNA. programmes such as our internal Leadership and Coaching programme, and our Management Associate programme titled ‘Imtiaz’ in collaboration EIBFS, to name a few, are manifestations of this strategy.”

RAKBANK also collaborates with EIBFS for training on Fundamentals of Financial Services from CISI (Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment UK), Certified Banking Operations and Certified Credit Management from HKIB (Hong Kong Institute for Bankers).

Referring specifically to the programme at Darden School of Business, Al Attar believes that it helps participants develop several core competencies that are critical to a leadership role. “These skills are not just relevant to a role within our bank. They are universal competencies that our people can utilise successfully throughout their careers. Specifically, the LDP course has helped our employees build proficiencies such as strategic leadership and change management, as well as organisational skills.”

Training that yields solid leadership skills

Badreya Al Dashti, Head of Public Sector and Large Corporates in the Corporate Banking division of Noor Bank, was one of the 14 UAE nationals who attend the Darden programme in 2015. As someone who aspires to lead a bank in the future, Al Dashti enjoyed her three-week intensive training away from her office in Dubai.

“It helped me immensely," she said. "I have been implementing my learning in my work. We covered areas that focused on aspects of personality, especially in dealing with new people and new scenarios. It emphasised effective leadership with suggestions to maximise performance with innovative strategies, and to play a role that would allow me to explore the unknowns or work outside of my comfort zone.”

Last year’s attendee included Suhaila Al Jesmi, Deputy Director of Group Human Resources at RAKBANK. The LDP course helped her get a firm grip on decision-making processes, a skill that is highly pertinent to her role, according to Al Jesmi.

She added, “The training enabled us to look at business cases from various perspectives and helped us understand how decision making and strategic thinking contribute to the building of a productive team, satisfied stakeholders and a successful organisation.” 

Of course, leadership development is more than just attending the two-week intensive course on Darden’s US campus, as Jack F. Sullivan, Senior Director, Business Development at the Darden School’s programme, points out. It is the way the attendees apply what they have learnt once they are back in the UAE that really make the difference.

Sullivan explains, “To ensure practical application, we ask LDP attendees to create an action plan that guides how, where and when they will implement what they learned upon ‘re-entry’ to work. Such an action plan serves as their road map for a smooth transition in applying key skills acquired during the programme, to actual duties and tasks required in their role on the job. With their personal executive coach (coaching is part of the LDP curriculum) they can refer to this document for many months after the programme to cheque progress against goals.”

On their return, RAKBANK participants created an individual development plan that was aligned to the bank’s corporate strategy, which demonstrated the impact and tangible benefits that the programme had on their ability to broaden their strategic and critical thinking, said RAKBANK’s Al Jesmi. A formal presentation was also delivered to the CEO that captured all of the key learning that was acquired, and demonstrated first-hand the improvement in overall capability.

With the help of educational institutions that feature strategic leadership courses, organisations in the UAE and the GCC region are effectively shaping talented leaders who will captain the businesses of tomorrow.