ME executives cite cybersecurity as most significant business headache

According to the Pulse Report of senior executives in the Middle East, 66% believe digital adoption and cybersecurity are their greatest business challenges.

Commissioned by Headspring, an executive development joint venture run by the Financial Times and IE Business School, concerns around digital adoption and cybersecurity have increased significantly in the past two years. In a similar survey conducted in 2017, just a quarter of the managers agreed that these issues are at the top of their list of concerns.

The Pulse Report is a study of management attitudes to leadership development and executive education. The Middle East edition, launched in partnership with the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), is part of a wider international survey also covering Western Europe and Japan.

Gustaf Nordbäck, CEO of Headspring, said: “The Pulse Report takes stock of the shifting learning needs of businesses, reflecting the views of C-suite executives, senior business leaders, human resources executives, and learning and development leaders.

“The report shines a spotlight on Middle East findings. In many respects, the business priorities and learning needs of the region are not dissimilar from the global position. Businesspeople are understandably preoccupied with digital issues the world over. However, alongside cybersecurity and digitalisation, our findings also show that the Middle East has not lost sight of the importance financial management,” continued Nordbäck.

Key findings

The top business challenges in the Middle East in this latest survey, versus the previous report conducted in 2017, are (percentages of respondents placing the issues in their top five concerns):

–      Digital adoption: 66% (vs 23% in 2017)

–      Cybersecurity: 63% (vs 24% in 2017)

–      Financial management: 38% (vs 30% in 2017)

“Harnessing the right talent and developing human capital”

The report also considers how leadership development can have an influence in addressing these key business challenges. Asked about their attitudes to executive education as a business priority, 30% of Middle East respondents placed it in their top five issues to be addressed.

Commenting on the report, Alya Al Zarouni, executive vice president of operations for DIFC Authority, said:

“Growing business in today’s world is no longer driven by generating revenue, it is very much about harnessing the right talent and developing human capital within an organisation. Deepening the pool of financial services professionals in the region remains a key priority for us at the DIFC. We continue to promote excellence and professional development through a number of knowledge-sharing initiatives and offering executive education courses on our growing network of leading academic institutions, such as Headspring, at the DIFC Academy.”

“Education is a vital part of the region’s economic transformation”

Al Zarouni went on to add: “We are pleased to have partnered with Headspring on the Middle East edition of Pulse Report, which reflects the significant emphasis that regional companies put on upskilling and training their people. An impressive number of Middle Eastern business leaders agree that executive education is a vital part of the region’s economic transformation and sustainability in constantly evolving market environment.”