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Summary: There's a growing demand for Financial Services in the Gulf... but banks in the region are struggling to find and retain talent while chalking out their growth strategies for the next few years. So what are the top priorities for the region's banking chiefs?

It's a simple case of supply and demand - but with a lack of supply! Demand for skilled banking staff is outstripping supply in the Gulf according to an Accenture survey. Ironically, it comes at a time when banks in the West are drastically reducing their workforce.

The global management consulting firm surveyed 47 C-suite executives at major banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) who highlighted skill shortage as 'the single biggest challenge facing the GCC banking industry, aside from new regulation - especially as more global players enter the market'.


Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of respondents agreed that the biggest impact of more global banks operating in the region will be the increased competition for skills and talent over the next few years. Eighty-nine per cent of respondents said that attracting and retaining talent will be the most important strategy their banks will use to increase shareholder value.

"As European and American banks undergo large domestic workforce reductions, financial institutions in the Gulf region are struggling with a shortage of skills to support the growing demand for banking services," said Amr Elsaadani, Managing Director of Accenture's banking practice in the Middle East.

The survey said banks are implementing a range of initiatives to address the issues, including:

nCoaching and mentoring

n Revamping compensation through higher salaries and bonuses

n Increasing transparency in career paths


The survey also suggests that GCC banks must plan to respond 'aggressively' to increased customer demands in order to stay competitive. This was ranked ahead of product innovation, productivity improvement, risk management, product distribution, diversification of businesses, new operating models and cost reduction.

"Our research suggests this demand is also becoming more complex, as customer expectations rise and regional competition heats up. This will fuel the battle for talent in the region, as banks look for the skills required to develop more innovative products and to manage and grow their businesses," Elsaadani said.

According to the survey, as customers in the Gulf become more demanding, they are also becoming less loyal to their institutions.

Improving customer service was cited as the single most critical challenge to attract and retain customers through 2015: 46 per cent of executives cited it as 'critical' and 30 per cent cited it as 'important'.

Eighty-nine per cent of respondents said that attracting and retaining talent will be the most important strategy their banks will use to increase shareholder value


The gradual shift away from traditional government-driven, large oil-based enterprises to industries such as telecommunications, finance and tourism is creating new avenues for economic growth. As these industries grow, banks are increasingly targeting a more diverse customer base including the largely untapped youth, women and small and medium-sized enterprises (SME).

More than half the population in the GCC is below the age of 30, and the female employment rate has grown considerably over the past decade - from 30 per cent in 2000 to 37 per cent in 2009.

While small business is burgeoning; SMEs account for only two per cent of the total loans in the region, compared with 27 per cent in countries that are members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"The increasing customer orientation of these banks reflects an expectation that the pool of customers in the GCC is getting wider and deeper -- especially with regard to youth, women and SMEs, which have traditionally received little attention," added Elsaadani.

"To capture these markets, banks will need to ramp up both their retail and commercial banking capabilities." nBME

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Publication:Banker Middle East
Date:Jan 30, 2012
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