HR Committees at Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies Convene to Finalize 2017 Annual Training Plan

The Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS), a regional leader in banking and finance education and training, concluded its initial engagement with the UAE’s banking and finance professionals. The institute’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), a six member committee comprised of distinguished Human Resource (HR) managers from UAE’s local and international banks, convened throughout the year to develop, enhance and finalize the 2017 Annual Training Plan – aligning program curricula with the demands and requirements of the banking and finance industry.

Holding periodic meetings in the first half of the year, the TAC gathered to analyse the 2016 training outcomes and review training and academic program content and relevance. Having evaluated the current curriculum designs, the TAC outlined numerous recommendations for the upcoming year – proposing new strategies and program syllabi tailored to meet both the requirements of the banking and finance sector and the needs of the professional workforce, particularly UAE nationals. Concluding its comprehensive review, the TAC compiled suggestions on how to maintain up-to-date course curricula reflective of the current banking and finance practices.

With the objective of enhancing the Annual Training Plan, the TAC additionally charted out recommendations to encourage cooperation and coordination between EIBFS and financial and banking institutions – connecting EIBFS program coordinators to specialists and professionals in the industry.

The TAC comprises of HR managers from Emirates NBD, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, First Gulf Bank, Citi Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai and Barclays Bank.

Commenting on the TAC and their integral role at the institute, Jamal Al Jassmi, General Manager at EIBFS, said: “EIBFS is committed to engaging with banking and finance specialists and collaborating with talent acquisition managers to leverage their expertise and understand current industry trends, market fluctuations and workforce requirements. With the help of the Technical Advisory Committee and their invaluable feedback and program recommendations, EIBFS can effectively align the institute’s course curriculum with industry needs and provide best-in-class training for the nation’s most promising professionals – further reinforcing our position as a premier academic and training institution.”

Speaking on the importance of developing professional capacities in the banking sector, the current Chairman of the TAC, Husam Al Sayed, Group Chief Human Resource Officer at Emirates NBD, said: “At Emirates NBD, we invest in vocational skills and build local capabilities along with specialized competences for entry, mid and senior level employees. Partnering with EIBFS on curriculum design, we hope to develop the professional capabilities needed to cater to the growing requirements of the banking sector – paying particular attention to entry level talent by offering premier coaching and mentoring services.”

Committed to building meaningful relationships with premier academic and training institutions, TAC member Waheeb Al Khazraji, Head of Human Resources at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, similarly commented: “Banking institutions and the sector’s workforce competences play a critical role in all economies, particularly in emerging markets. For this reason, it is important for banks to establish ongoing partnerships and to engage in high level dialogues with academic institutions. Committed to promoting real-time training for the banking and financial services sector, we have fostered a long-standing and successful partnership with EIBFS.

Al Khazraji added: “It is our responsibility as banks to ensure that training and academic curricula are aligned with our growth objectives along with our recruitment criteria. Together with EIBFS, we will continue to help tailor and design relevant programs that adhere to today’s trends and requirements.” In 2014, EIBFS established several overview committees – including the TAC – with the objective of adequately linking the institute’s academic and training staff with HR managers and banking and finance experts. In line with this mission, EIBFS inaugurated nine Focus Group Committees mandated to review, update and improve the Annual Training Plan and its various specialisations. Allocating one focus group to each of the institute’s banking and finance branches, EIBFS convenes banking and finance specialists several times a year to discuss, deliberate and analyse current industry trends, challenges and opportunities while assessing the relevance and quality of EIBFS courses and lecturers. Following the deliberations, the committees provide specialised feedback on course materials.

The Focus Group Committees cover nine sector specific topics including:

  • Bank & Science Operations
  • Banking English
  • Credit Management, Corporate & Project Finance
  • E-Banking Applications Programs
  • HR Management and Leadership
  • Islamic Banking Programs
  • Marketing, Sales & Customer Service
  • Risk Management & Compliance
  • Treasury & Investment Programs.

EIBFS has been globally integrated with leading organizations, universities and financial institutions to ensure ongoing availability of best-in-class programs and courses in the UAE.

A career that Emirati women can bank on

Banking is a great sector for Emiratis, especially woman, says Noura Abbas Ahmed, who is the head of training and business development at the Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS).

She took an unusual route into banking. Having graduated with a degree in health information management from Abu Dhabi Women’s College in 2009, instead of heading for a career in health care, Ms Ahmed went to Dubai International Financial Centre as a quality management specialist and then a business excellence manager, taking an MBA while she worked.

She went on to the Ministry of Labour’s Tas’heel service centres, again in a quality role and then as a deputy general manager.

Three years ago she took that banking experience to the EIBFS.

All banks, including the UAE Central Bank, are shareholders in the EIBFS, which is funded by 1 per cent of every bank employee’s salary and finances staff training; the development programme for UAE nationals is a major focus.

The EIBFS, founded 33 years ago, has three campuses, in Dubai Academic City, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. It helped to train 21,000 bankers last year, with more than 100 programmes covering everything from credit and risk to anti-money laundering and Islamic banking, as well as leadership programmes and “softer” training such as intensive English language courses, HR and marketing.

“I could not find a good job in the medical sector and was missing a business background. I grabbed the first opportunity that came to me as a starting point – and it was DIFC,” says Ms Ahmed, who is 30 and married.

“Banking work is totally different but I don’t regret it at all. You change your career as you think it right: one day if I want to go into health, I can. Serving my country was my main purpose as an Emirati national – whether that was public or private.

“I would advise a UAE national to work in a bank and work on their self-development – professionally as a banker,” she adds. “There are lots of opportunities for nationals here.” She says that of 22,000 Emiratis in the private sector, 14,000 are in banking, with women making up 70 per cent of those bankers.

Back in 2005, the Emiratisation target for the banking sector was set at an aggressive 4 per cent per year, to reach 50 per cent of the total employee base by 2008. Only the insurance sector was given a higher target, of 5 per cent a year. According to the last publicly released statistics from 2014, banks have reached 32 per cent – 34 per cent in local banks.

Some have been much more successful – Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank has a 48 per cent quota and Noor Bank 40 per cent, while the UAE Central Bank leads the way with 64 per cent.

In insurance, where UAE nationals make up just 11 per cent of all employees, it is expected that the industry will soon be given a 17 per cent target to hit by 2020. It follows that banking, while more successful than insurance in its Emiratisation programme, may also be expected to push further, particularly in the private sector.

“Assessing quality of job role, engagement of Emiratis and educational calibre of local hires are all innovative ways of approaching the traditional quota system, which has tended to focus purely on headcount,” says Robert Mogielnicki of Oxford Strategic Consulting.

The human capital consultancy’s chairman, William Scott-Jackson, adds that the private sector should now be “very keen to employ” UAE nationals – “provided the costs are not wildly uncompetitive”.

Ms Ahmed says Emiratis still tend to prefer the government sector for its shorter working hours, but adds that the barriers to entry are coming down in the private sector – through such measures as career development, training and flexible work hours. For instance, Saturdays are no longer mandatory work days and bankers are as likely now to work 9am-5pm as 7am-4pm.

And training is where Ms Ahmed and the EIBFS come in. “Women are more persistent now and motivated to stay. They like to join the corporate side, not just customer service or sales. The mentality has changed, especially for women – and there has been a huge jump in performance. Before, their main aim was just to have a job.”

After all, as she says, today’s fresh bankers are “the coming CEOs” of the sector.