Emirates NBD empowers its workforce by enhancing digital skills

Dubai lender shares futuristic vision ahead of BIT2023


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Published: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 3:20 PM

Last updated: Mon 13 Nov 2023, 3:25 PM

Banking Innovation and Technology 2023 Summit, organised by KT Events in partnership with We Value, will bring together top talents from banking and fintech sector on November 15 and November 16 at Address SkyView, Dubai.

Emirates NBD bank, headline sponsor of the event, shares its futuristic vision to empower its employees through several initiatives and programs. The bank aims to enhance employees’ skills and knowledge, particularly in digital and data-related areas.

Earlier this month, our Banking Domain Advisor Sai Narain CDK caught up with Eman Abdulrazzaq, Group Chief Human Resource Officer at Emirates NBD, ahead of her upcoming HR Fireside chat titled “Shift in talent acquisition trends and human resources strategies in the evolving landscape of banking and fintech innovation” at the Banking Innovation and Technology 2023 Summit.

Here is a transcript of the conversation.

What specific initiatives and programs has Emirates NBD implemented to enhance the skills and knowledge of its workforce, especially in the areas of digital and data-related training?

We’re committed to ensuring every single employee at Emirates NBD has the skills and capabilities that both we and they need to be successful. We have a five-year investment in place to deliver this, emphasizing digital and data skill building in particular. According to global benchmarking, the size of this investment positions Emirates NBD in the top-tier globally for per-employee training across our 13 markets and we’re very proud of this.

In terms of specific learning programs, our School of Data Sciences offers over 11,000 data and analytics courses. We have long-term partnerships with top-tier universities like INSEAD, Hult, Yale and Duke, as well as knowledge-experts like PwC. All employees get access to reputed learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera.

Recognizing that building knowledge is one thing but applying it is another, we’ve launched several internal programs to translate learning into future skills and meaningful career experiences. Our “Career Connection Program” helps employees who’ve upskilled through the School of Data Sciences to move into roles in their new chosen field. Similarly, our bank-wide career mobility program provides a structured path for people to transition into any new and diverse career path, aligned with our internal vacancies. Our coaching and mentoring program sees our most senior, experienced managers share their knowledge and expertise with high-potential, more junior employees. For all these internal programs, building and applying digital and data knowledge is a core goal and focus.

Are you facing challenges in finding talent in the market especially future-ready talent?

Emirates NBD’s domestic and now increasingly international growth means we’ve seen surging demand for every single talent and skill we need across our bank. Like many other organisations, the biggest shortages are in digital, data and technology professions. We’re constantly searching for more Data Scientists, Data Engineers and Digital Transformation experts as three examples to join our ranks, and we know this competition will only intensify in the future of banking.

It’s great the UAE government has introduced fantastic initiatives to attract more tech and digital talent to the UAE and locally build more of our own future tech-stars too. Examples include launching freelance visas, establishing globally recognised tech events like GITEX and encouraging more STEM students. All of that’s definitely helped Emirates NBD recruit tech talent locally but we also recognise the need to tackle the talent challenge internally too. From a recruitment perspective, we’re now hiring for skills rather than being fixated on qualifications or experience. We’ve also become more flexible with candidates from much more diverse industries and backgrounds. Most importantly of all though, the need to find talented people was probably the biggest catalyst of all for the significant internal upskilling and reskilling investments I outlined earlier. This of course, is win-win for our employees too.

Do you believe that schools, particularly universities, need significant improvements in their curriculum to foster this future-ready talent?

Our UAE-based universities have shown great commitment to fostering future-ready talent. A big part of this is collaborating with the private sector, including us, and such partnerships are very valuable. Emirates NBD’s insights help ensure UAE university curricula and career advisors best prepare students for the reality of the corporate world. That includes guiding and teaching students about the future foundational skills and career paths most likely to be associated with greater employment opportunities, higher incomes and more job satisfaction. Equally, such partnerships give us the chance to source future talent as early as possible. That’s especially by offering internships, running fun events like hackathons and through structured programs like our National Digital Talent Incubator program.

The next step is even deeper collaboration across the private and university sectors, underpinned by our growing, shared responsibility to ensure every working person is equipped with the skills of tomorrow. This isn’t just about banking or the corporate sector either. New and more advanced social, emotional, technological and cognitive skills, as well as digital competencies are now essential across nearly every profession from truck driving, to carpentry and nursing. By equipping all workers with these future skills and a continuous learning mindset, the benefit this can and will deliver for the UAE’s people, companies, tertiary institutions and our country as a whole cannot be understated.

How many years do you think this will take?

I’m speaking in relatively long and ambitious terms here but more action can be taken now. I believe large institutions like Emirates NBD have an opportunity and responsibility to lead the way, which we will do.

How does the bank plan to cultivate future UAE national talent strategically?

Our approach to cultivating UAE National talent for the future has evolved a lot over the last few years. We’ve moved from recruiting graduates to a much more holistic and sustainable approach, looking at attracting and retaining Emiratis at every organisational level.

Our Emirati talent strategy is multi-tiered and includes launching Ruwad two years ago; our accelerated, elite graduate program for UAE National future leaders. It’s a 24-month program and there’s no other program quite like it. We’re actually seeing our first cohort now being elevated into managerial roles across areas like corporate and retail banking, and our Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence, so it’s very rewarding to see this program bearing fruit. Is there a well-organized plan to deploy UAE national talent in immersive programs within developed markets, particularly in the FinTech ecosystem, with durations of around six months to a year, aimed at enhancing their skills and knowledge? Is there a structured approach in place?

FinTechs and technology firms have rapidly reshaped certain aspects of the banking sector, especially in terms of digital product innovation and customer service. This is pretty well documented and it’s clear that Emirates NBD will increasingly partner with such organisations in the future too. Eventually, this will cement open banking as a core component of our business model and see us more rapidly enable very differentiated and customer-centric value propositions, for the benefit of our customers.

This is not exactly a new phenomenon for Emirates NBD, given our Future Lab has been operational for many years now, focusing on external collaboration and industry partnerships, and we’ve worked with over 500 fintechs to-date. It means on a daily basis, many of our employees including UAE Nationals are directly engaging with representatives from an increasing list of local and international fintech partners. That’s especially true if they’re working in our Digital Office which has a dedicated FinTech engagement team, as well as in Information Technology or our front-facing retail and corporate banking teams. Additionally, Ruwad provides an opportunity for some of our graduates to experience life in tech, with our secondment partners including some of the biggest and upcoming global names in technology.

It makes sense then, that our next step is to provide this kind of opportunity and exposure to other Emirates NBD people and teams. In the process, it’ll provide them with a more holistic view of our evolving, collaborative business model and a first-hand understanding of the agile-first operating model that’s typical of such fintechs and that we’re continuously adopting too.

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