Business in the Middle East is undergoing a radical transformation. Traditional norms are fast disappearing, while the rise of modern technologies and methods necessitate a change in way top business leaders function.
As a new generation of young leaders takes the helm of corporate affairs, the GCC and the Middle East are waking up to a new reality dominated by several global issues – primarily digital disruption, aka the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Top CEO Conference & Awards – launched by TRENDS magazine, in association with the INSEAD Business School – brings together the best business minds from the region to help understand how best to navigate this new, constantly changing landscape and draft a roadmap for future growth and development for the region’s businesses.
A kingdom with a Vision
Now in its seventh edition, the Top CEO Conference & Awards, taking place on April 10 and 11, extends its presence in the region and heads to the prestigious King Abdullah Economic City in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the very first time; a country spearheading the phenomenon of a new reality through its Vision 2030.
Under this year’s theme of ‘Adapting to Disruption: New Roles, New Realities’, the conference will focus not only on the changes that are transforming the region, but also on how these will affect – and modify – the way business is conducted. Sessions and panel discussions will attempt to analyze the future of business in the region and how the existing models need to reshape themselves to survive this new reality.
Breaking new ground
Discussions and debates will focus on a myriad of hot topics sprouting from the changing dynamics of business; from exploring innovation and gender bias, to discussing the Arab world’s image in the West and the rising number of SMEs in the region. Saudi Vision 2030 also comes under the spotlight, as do new alliances emerging in the region and the advent of new technologies.
Defining the state of the current business ecosystem, Julien Hawari, CEO of Mediaquest Corp, the publisher of TRENDS magazine, says: “These are really exciting times for the regional corporate vistas. The commitment with which the regional governments are focusing on creating a sustainable roadmap for the future; the fearless attitude with which top managements are foraying into the unseen, but promising arenas; these factors are together painting the perfect picture that speaks of growth and development in the true sense.”
The conference will be followed by the Top CEO Awards, which will honor business leaders from the GCC. The awards are aimed at developing a transparent and credible ranking system in the Gulf to promote a culture of robust corporate governance. These awards will honor CEOs who have emerged as true leaders and played a crucial role in making this region adaptive to the principles of new reality.
The Top CEO Awards are different and unique, because only publicly listed companies in the GCC are awarded on the basis of financial data from the Dubai Financial Market, the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and the Saudi stock exchange, Tadawul. Data is also taken from stock exchanges in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman.
TRENDS and INSEAD also host the Top CEO Awards, in collaboration with corporate governance institute Hawkamah. Hawkamah ensures that elements of good governance remain an integral part of the overall ranking system. Deloitte, one of the world’s largest professional services networks, will assist in the evaluation of financial statements and the selection of the top 100 CEOs for the Top CEO Awards.
A new reality
It’s a demanding task. Gulf bourses reflect varied benchmarks at frequent intervals.
In January this year, while Kuwait surpassed the region in the bull run, the UAE remained the foremost choice among the regional equities portfolio.
The past few months have also witnessed the execution of many measures aimed at ensuring the robustness of the regional stock exchanges. If, on the one hand, there was an approval to the short-selling on the Dubai Financial Market, then on the other hand, there was also a new trade settlement cycle on the Saudi Stock Exchange; all initiatives aimed at extending the market reach.
At such a juncture, all eyes are on regional business leaders to see how they adapt to these changes and help their companies operate in this complex environment, where there is a call for increased transparency and efficiency amidst growing competition. Today, information, knowledge, perseverance, adaptability, collaboration and visionary leadership are all essential to help the region’s businesses successfully enter the new post-oil era.
Hawari adds: “At the Top CEO Conference & Awards, we intend to recognize deserving CEOs whose wisdom can be used for a collective march towards a sustainable economy. We adhere to the principle of transparency, while ranking the CEOs who are significantly contributing to this era of new reality.”
This new reality, coupled with the technological advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, marks an end to the era of abundance. Adding further to the disruption, the fluctuating oil market has created a wide scope to build a more sustainable business model, where flexibility and growth are the by-products of the transformation. C-suite management is making full use of this ongoing disruption that is mirroring in their companies’ annual listings.
Miguel Sousa Lobo, Associate Professor of Decision Sciences and Director of INSEAD’s Middle East campus in Abu Dhabi, says the Top CEO Conference & Awards is a platform providing more incentives for ‘real performance’.
“By focusing on objective and measurable evidence of value creation – for shareholders and for the economy – the Top CEO Awards are helping to move the region’s business culture in the right direction, one where there are more incentives and rewards for real performance. The associated event [the Top CEO Conference], with its networking opportunities and thoughtful, structured discussions on topical issues, is likewise laudable. A culture of information-sharing and collaboration can and should co-exist, even within highly competitive business environments, to make the region’s economy more efficient and globally competitive,” Lobo adds.
Year of consolidation
Will 2017 be the year of consolidation, when the region bounces back from the negative effects of the oil-price slump and the various geopolitical uncertainties? Undertaking structural reforms, slashing subsidies, introducing taxes and new regulations, governments in the GCC are doing everything they can to take their nations into a new post-oil era. At the same time, rapid technological advances, including in cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, 3D printing and robotics are affecting nearly every industry sector, from construction to banking. Is the region prepared for this onslaught? Are the region’s businesses doing enough to support and encourage new businesses and entrepreneurs? How can the new generation of CEOs and business leaders help steer the region into the future?
The Top CEO Conference and Awards 2017 will address these issues and more as businesses adapt to disruption and take on new roles in this new reality.