Emiratis shine in UAE’s thriving banking sector

UAE Nationals play a pivotal role in the UAE’s thriving banking sector, contributing their local knowledge, cultural understanding, and leadership skills

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Man and woman with traditional clothes working in a business office of Dubai. Portraits of  successful entrepreneurs businessman and businesswoman in formal emirates outfits. Concept about middle east
Man and woman with traditional clothes working in a business office of Dubai. Portraits of successful entrepreneurs businessman and businesswoman in formal emirates outfits. Concept about middle east

By Muzaffar Rizvi

Published: Wed 30 Aug 2023, 3:05 PM

The UAE is renowned for its vibrant economy and flourishing banking sector, which is considered the cornerstone of its financial stability. Over the past few decades, the UAE has experienced remarkable growth, thanks to the visionary leadership and the active participation of Emiratis in various sectors, particularly in the banking industry.

The UAE government has been proactively promoting Emiratizstion initiatives, which aim to increase the participation of Emiratis in the private sector, including the banking industry. These measures include providing scholarships, training programmes, and employment opportunities specifically tailored towards empowering Emiratis in the finance sector. Emiratis, in turn, have responded positively, seizing these opportunities by acquiring specialised skills and expertise required in the banking sector.

Emiratis’ contributions

The UAE Nationals possess an innate understanding of the UAE’s cultural values, traditions, and local market dynamics. This deep understanding allows them to engage effectively with local customers, bridge cultural gaps, and create a sense of trust and loyalty. Emiratis provide invaluable insight into the local market, contributing to the banking sector’s success.

Emiratis have made significant strides in leadership roles within the banking sector. Their strong educational background, entrepreneurial mindset, and commitment to excellence have propelled them to take up senior positions, both in local banks and multinational financial institutions. Emiratis serving in these influential positions not only bring a unique perspective but also inspire and mentor young aspiring bankers.

There is a general perception that the UAE Nationals mostly prefer retail or teller positions over critical roles in risk, credit, audit and compliance, among others. But this is no more a case as today Emiratis have been performing in every segment of the banking sector, thanks to extensive training programmes and courses by the Emirates Institute of Finance (EIF). The Institute has been playing an important role in strengthening the UAE banking system through its various initiatives.

Under its latest Ethraa programme, the institute intends to localise the financial industry by creating 5,000 job opportunities for Emiratis by 2026.

The EIF held the first and second Ethraa Career Fairs in May and July to connect the candidates with important banks and leading companies in the financial sector. The fair saw 3,860 male and female attendees, with over 2,500 passing through evaluation and employment interviews.

“We are aiming that the UAE National should be working in critical roles after getting proper training and relevant experience to meet the job criteria from entry level to senior management role. It is our commitment to support the UAE Nationals and train them for critical positions in the banking sector,” according to a senior banker. The leading independent training institute offering world-class education, training, and allied services in banking and finance, has also partnered with Oxford University, Said Business School, and MIT to introduce the groundbreaking Future Tech Leaders Programme. This programme aims to address the critical talent gap in the technology sector, with a specific focus on the thriving Fintech industry.

Emiratis play key role

Emiratis play a pivotal role in the UAE’s thriving banking sector, contributing their local knowledge, cultural understanding, and leadership skills. However, challenges such as skills gaps and perceptions must be overcome to ensure Emirati participation continues to grow. By investing in education and training, promoting mentorship programs, and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, Emiratis can continue to excel in the banking sector, shaping and leading the future of the UAE’s financial landscape.

As the UAE banking sector is thriving, the UAE Nationals will have to improve their skills and expertise in the financial industry. There may be a gap between the skills possessed by Emirati graduates and the requirements of the banking industry despite the government’s relentless efforts due to the rapid evolution of the financial sector and the need for specialised knowledge in areas such as fintech and risk management.

Experts said bridging this gap remains a crucial challenge that needs to be addressed through continuous training and educational programmes. To overcome the skills gap, the UAE government and banking institutions should focus on investing in targeted educational programmes and specialised training.

“Collaborations with international educational institutions and partnerships with established banking entities can enhance the curriculum and provide Emiratis with exposure to best practices in the industry,” according to a banker.

He said there is a need to develop mentorship programmes that can facilitate the transfer of knowledge from experienced professionals to younger Emirati talents.

“Encouraging cross-generational interaction, sharing experiences, and offering guidance can accelerate the learning curve for Emirati banking professionals and equip them with the necessary skills to thrive in the sector,” he said.

In addition, the government should promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the country and Emiratis should be encouraged to explore and embrace innovative technologies that are rapidly transforming the banking industry, such as digital banking and fintech.

“Initiatives that foster entrepreneurial spirit and provide support for Emirati start-ups in the banking sector can create a breed of Emirati innovators who drive industry growth and adaptability,” the banker said.

UAE banks remain resilient

Alvarez & Marsal (A&M), which examines data from the 10 largest listed banks in the UAE for its UAE Banking Pulse report, illustrates a positive trend in the UAE banking sector’s profitability during the second quarter of 2023, primarily driven by an increase in non-interest income and reduced impairment charges.

The Central Bank of UAE Credit Sentiment Survey also indicated strong loan demand growth and optimistic expectation on credit appetite from financial institutions. The Central Bank continues to anchor its benchmark rate to the US Federal Reserves and increased it by 50 basis points between first quarter of 2023 to July 2023.

Asad Ahmed, A&M Managing Director and Head of Middle East Financial Services, said the UAE banks continue to stand on firm financial ground and are poised to navigate through the broader macroeconomic landscape.

“We are continuing to witness sustained resilience in the UAE’s banking sector. Profitability remains robust and is emblematic of the sector’s adaptability, with non-interest income elevation and a reduction in impairment charges steering the positive trajectory,” he said.

He said the alignment of the UAE’s interest rates with the US Federal Reserve, marked by a gradual 50 basis points rise from first quarter of 2023 to July 2023, further assists in this economic stance.

— muzaffarrizvi@khaleejtimes.com

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