Developing The Talent Pool In The GCC

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Jamal Al Jassmi, the General Manager at Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies/Supplied

Banker Middle East catches up with Jamal Al Jassmi, General Manager at Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS).

How was 2018 for EIBFS?

2018 was a great year that saw EIBFS exceed the targeted number of training programmes. Under our flagship Annual Training Plan (ATP), we offered 616 programmes to a total of 14,990 participants.

This represented over six per cent increase from 2017. Together with vocational training and educational programmes, workshops and other activities, our highly-qualified trainers delivered 1,043 courses to over 26,000 participants from 1 January to 31 December 2018—our highest number yet.

Since the Institute’s inception, its mission has been to provide the best learning experiences in the banking and finance sector. Our training programmes have resonated with the professional community, and we have seen attendance rise steadily. Year after year, we have also expanded our portfolio with subjects and courses in line with the latest industry trends, and in 2018, we have surpassed all expectations.

What is the focus for EIBFS is in 2019?

We aim to offer a continuous flow of programmes that add value and are in demand by the banking and financial sector throughout the year. The banking and financial services industry is witnessing major disruption.

While the traditional business models for banks remain in place, we cannot ignore major technological advancements that have introduced radical changes to the sector. Financial technology or fintech is taking the industry by storm, and digitalisation is changing the face of the domain.

At EIBFS, we are aware of the potential effects of this disruption. We have been observing the industry trends over the years and have identified key developments that will affect the sector in due time. This enhances our understanding of the new skills and abilities employees will require. Because, to keep up with the changes, every professional in the sector needs to master the latest technologies and functional skills.

To address this priority, our forward-looking and technology driven 2019 Annual Training Plan offers a wide spectrum of relevant programmes and courses. At the Institute, we work closely with HR heads of banks and insurance companies.

Furthermore, we have a proactive Technical Advisory Committee, comprising HR managers of leading local banks, that conducts training needs analysis and develops tailored programmes based on the results. In 2019, we also aim to provide14 professional certificate qualifications in collaboration with specialised international institutions.

In addition, we have a target of 14 e-learning programmes as well as 12 national qualifications that align with the UAE government’s Emiratization vision. This year, we seek to conduct our courses across the UAE. In addition to our three main campuses in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, we plan to run programmes in Al Ain and the Northern Emirates. We will also continue to offer our international bachelor’s programme in Accounting and Banking in collaboration with the reputed Bangor University in the UK.

The programme allows EIBFS students who have completed their requisite credits here in the UAE to proceed to Bangor for their final year and obtain an internationally accredited bachelor’s degree from the institution.

How have digital technologies changed the financial sector, and how does the talent pool cope with it?

Digital technologies are transforming the financial landscape in the UAE and globally. It is no surprise that more financial service providers look for employees that are capable of fulfilling the digital demands of the industry.

The UAE population is highly tech-savvy, and fintech is instrumental in shaping the future of banking and finance. Blockchain and AI are already playing a pivotal role in various sectors, with blockchain being gradually adopted to power bank transactions.

To stay ahead of the curve and strengthen their relationships with their clientele, banks are introducing new applications and technologies to make it easier for customers to manage their finances. Integrated online banking platforms are becoming more popular by the day.

At EIBFS, we believe that those who wish to succeed in the field must understand the changes that are occurring and make them an integral part of their academic pursuits. Introducing courses and programmes that explore these subjects is a high priority for us. We aspire to raise the standards of our educational offering and equip our students with the tools they need to excel in their careers.

EIBFS has always been at the forefront of pioneering initiatives aimed at building the competencies of the talent pool in the UAE financial industry. Our 2019 Annual Training Plan focuses on qualifying world-class professionals with advanced techno-functional skills, so that they can successfully adapt to the growing technological demands of the financial domain.

In line with our commitment to preparing our graduates for the disruptive future of banking, we have introduced the fintech and analytics verticals. Fintech educates the participants about the latest trends in the financial technology space and starts with a programme on the ‘Future of Banking’. In analytics, we teach our students to apply analytical methods to improve performance across diverse domains.

What Emiratization initiatives do you have in place for financial institutions in the country?

EIBFS has introduced various dedicated programmes for UAE nationals, customised to the needs of banks and insurance companies. As nationalisation initiatives in the banking sector play a significant role in supporting the UAE economy, we routinely review our courses to align with the Emiratization strategies of financial institutions.

A prime example of our efforts is the Masrafi National Development Programme that focuses on training UAE nationals who are interested in a long-term career in the banking and financial industry. As part of the initiative, we signed agreements with select banks to encourage their Emirati employees to complete professional certificate courses, such as Certified Banking Operations (CBO) and Certified Credit Management (CCM), as well as specialised training for bank branch managers.

Overall, 6,489 Emiratis—25 per cent of the total number of students—participated in our training courses last year. We understand that the key to retaining UAE nationals in the financial sector, especially banks, is to provide them with opportunities for growth. Given the importance of building leadership competencies, and in line with the Federal Government’s strategy to invest in national human capital, EIBFS continues to prepare senior bankers to become the leaders of tomorrow.

What is EIBFS’ strategy for the medium term?

Our future strategy calls for further evolution in line with the increasing sophistication of the UAE market. This essentially means that in the medium term—around one to three years—we will focus on training and certifications, complemented by a well-defined selection of academic programmes offered in collaboration with third parties.

We also aim to expand our range of training courses and boost quality as well as perception. With regards to our academic portfolio that includes bachelor’s and diploma programmes, BCG has recommended building synergies with other best-in-class educational institutions, preferably within the UAE.

It has proposed that we implement a new academic partnership model that will leverage the strengths of our partners to develop high-value specialised programmes. The partners will handle core course delivery and add credibility to each degree, especially for advanced courses. In turn, they will benefit from a stronger link with banks.

We are keen to pursue this avenue. Finally, as an advocate of Emiratization and a strategic partner of the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation, the Institute will continue to engage in nationalisation strategies.