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Talent, culture and the future of deal-making

Is the Middle East corporate finance advisory sector attractive to young talent?

By Zubin Chiba, PwC ME Deals corporate finance leader and Deals people partner.

Photo of Zubin Chiba

We can all agree that corporate culture nuances have shifted since COVID-19 and many of the trends, such as virtual client meetings and remote work, are here to stay for the long haul. But how does this fit in when it comes to attracting young talent and the broader topic of the war on talent? I was recently given the opportunity to moderate a panel entitled, Talent, culture and the future of deal-making, with a few corporate finance industry professionals  including, Haya Al Barqawi, Trainee Solicitor, Al Tamimi & Company, Deepak Mirchandani, Senior Consultant – Transactions, Grant Thornton UAE, Fatma Gobash, PwC, Mike Littlewood, Sector Head, Professional Services Commercial Banking MENAT, HSBC and Andrew Tarbuck, Partner Head of Capital Markets, Al Tamimi & Company, to gather a holistic perspective and uncover insights based on their experience.

Next generation of deals advisors

In the region, corporate finance is an exciting place to be - when looking at deals alone, M&A activity in the Middle East increased marginally by 6% in 2020, with 235 deals completed in the region, compared with 221 in 2019, according to our TransAct Middle East report findings from February 2021. In a sector that is as fast paced as corporate finance advisory, to attract and retain the next generation of deal advisors requires dynamic management of teams to achieve a culture that combines trust, passionate people, a variety of work exposure, training and development and so much more. As we navigate a hybrid work environment, with some clients working from home and colleagues stationed remotely, engaging with our young talent, building culture and team spirit have been met with challenges, including the potential of a growing skills gap as the corporate finance sector moves towards industry specialisation. So how can we overcome these challenges and use them to our advantage? 

The growing skills gap

When it comes to attracting and retaining young talent, the answer is in achieving a flexibility framework that takes into consideration a mix between old nuances and new preferences in career ambitions. Today, the need to deliver to clients is at an all time high and at the same time, work-life balance to maintain employee wellbeing go hand-in-hand. Historically, employees in the corporate finance sector heavily relied on hands-on training and shadowing in order to develop the skills needed to deliver to clients and when the world went into lockdown last year, the industry quickly pivoted and made way for virtual collaboration and an increase in alternative delivery models. As we continue to transition back to in-person work environments, a culture that creates opportunities to participate in colleague interaction and client engagement touchpoints are more important than ever. This model works when there are flexibility framework guidelines in place, as well as a level of trust and accountability across teams. I often find myself assessing what combination of face to face engagement and remote working do my clients expect and that my team is comfortable with taking on. So whether that means agreeing on which days of the week are required to work in the office, or at a client location and how often do we get together as a team to create and foster team connectivity. Either way, the mix of hands-on experience and the flexibility for work-life balance will support bridging the growing skills gap and reinforce employee wellbeing that will attract and retain top talent.

Winning the war on talent

While corporate finance remains an agile and transformative sector, the fact remains, attracting and retaining digital natives, Gen z, Gen y and engaging them requires developing a successful framework that celebrates a culture where everyone’s career ambitions are taken into consideration. This includes inclusion and diversity considerations. The future of work is hybrid and it takes balance - a mix between policy and trust - that’s what is needed to win the war on talent. Is your flexibility framework equipped for the future?

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