For GCC banks, the key to meeting market challenges is in their people

For GCC banks, the key to meeting market challenges is in their people

Good talent development can help banks cope with tough competition, strict regulations, and nationalization objectives.

To many, the image of GCC banks is of lucrative players enjoying the easy benefits of operating in an oil-rich region, but in reality, these organizations have a lot to contend with to ensure success in the business.

Banks in the Arabian Gulf states operate in highly crowded markets, with an abundance of sophisticated products and services and a rapid pace of development to keep up with. And with global trends of lower oil prices, slower economic growth, and more cautious spending, the competition is only getting tougher.

To meet those challenges head-on, banks will need to look within their walls. Because an organizations performance is so largely shaped by its people, a solid talent base can be a key competitive edge, and banks must invest in retaining the best talent and nurturing it for their long-term stability and success.

Drawing from our experience in the regional banking industry, we have outlined three key challenges for banks that can be addressed with the aid of an effective talent management approach.

Maintaining risk mitigation and compliance

When it comes to risk management and compliance, banks have a lot of things to consider: a rise in cyber-crime, the ongoing threat of fraud and money laundering, tighter regulations from central banks for added protection, and compliance with strict global financial guidelines. Ensuring that employees are constantly aware of market conditions and up-to-date on new policies and procedures is key to maintaining security and compliance.

This is one reason why centralized learning management systems and online portals have become an indispensable training and communication tool for many banks, providing easy access to consistent and up-to-date information, such as news, e-learning, awareness videos, and detailed product and policy information. But it is important to ensure that these tools create a positive user experience, so that employees continue to use them actively and remain informed. Equally important is the use of the monitoring and reporting capabilities of these systems that track learning progress in specific areas.

Meeting the diverse learning needs of a large workforce

Banks by nature are very human capital intensive, with a dizzying array of job functions, roles and skills, enough to test even the most competent HR professional. Ensuring that thousands of employees possess the right competencies for their roles and continue to grow them is a mammoth task, involving the creation of individualized plans covering a wide variety of technical, system and soft skill training.

This becomes even more challenging, considering that in the years following the global financial crisis, training budgets have generally dropped, both in the region and beyond, while training needs and targets remain ambitious. The focus on talent development remains as important as ever for GCC countries, and banks still have thousands of employees with diverse learning needs to address, but how do they achieve this while keeping a close eye on costs?

To start with, HR functions must have proper competency models and well-defined job descriptions, to serve as a solid foundation for individual training plans. But they also need to adopt a smarter training approach, and focus on the most efficient training formats and media. E-learning and learning videos are an excellent way to engage millennial learners with an interactive and familiar format, while also improving efficiency by cutting training costs and productivity down-time. Providing detailed content on products, policies and procedures through learning management systems and information portals, can also greatly reduce the need for face-to-face training and reduce training related admin work.

Ensuring long-term success of nationalization

The Gulf countries continue to achieve progress with their nationalization strategies year after year, but this is not to say that these results come without challenges. Banks regularly take on large numbers of national fresh graduates, who must not only be brought up to speed quickly with job requirements, but also placed on a long-term plan towards more influential roles in the future.

It is important to invest in these new joiners from the start in order to motivate them to excel and commit to their employers, and avoid losing them to competitors. Beginning with an orientation program provides immediate direction and speeds up induction. This can then be followed by developing an individual long-term career plan to grow the employee towards more senior leadership roles, and a corresponding development plan to enhance requisite skills. One excellent way to do this is through mentoring and coaching, with more experienced and established employees taking beginners under their wing, and accelerating their integration and development.

Investing in talent in all the above mentioned ways will return benefits to employers many times over. In order to be better positioned externally in the market, banks need to remain focused on the inherent talent and potential within. An insightful and well-planned talent management approach, combined with effective learning programs and tools, is the way to achieve this.

How we help our clients

MENTOR has helped many leading banks in the GCC region with managing and developing their human capital. Our consultants support HR teams through advisory solutions on talent management, including competency modeling, career planning, leadership development, and performance management. We also work hand-in-hand with the training function within banks, and design industry-specialized training and mentoring/coaching programs, while providing proprietary digital tools that facilitate the ongoing management and tracking of learning.

Interested in learning more about how we help banks boost their talent? Talk to a consultant to discuss your employees' development needs.