18 August 2020

Transformation under way

MENAT has leap-frogged western economies in many technologies, such as 5G. And successful adoption of digital advances will underpin achievement of the goals in the visionary transformation programmes of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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The region’s spending on artificial intelligence is estimated to have grown by 43% in 20191. Public and private sector alike are alert to the need to harness these new technologies, while often in need of help to understand their potential and the legal consequences.

Cybersecurity is a big source of concern too. In the wake of high-profile data breaches, many organisations lack confidence in their data protection capabilities.

The consulting giants are responding to these needs. 2019 saw PwC offer its clients a self-service platform for digital risk management to its Middle East clients2, while Deloitte opened a digital delivery centre in Riyadh to act as a testing-ground for digital innovations3.

More widely, clients’ hunger for added value is accelerating the adoption of automation among the region’s consultancies. Personal relationships and a strong network are still central to success in MENAT, but clients are increasingly open to receiving professional services on an automated basis.

“The most obvious challenge facing professional services is technology innovation, and artificial intelligence in particular. It’s very apparent in the UAE but it’s happening across the region. Automation is a solution to clients’ budget pressures. Our Knowledge and Legal Transformation team looks after automation of our documents with a view to provide a more cost efficient services to our clients where possible.” – Samer Qudah, Al Tamimi

“My view is that cybersecurity is pretty much number one on everyone’s agenda, especially in financial institutions. There’s also a massive push on automation and AI for services such as law and accountancy. While we embrace technology and it will help achieve efficiencies, clients will always require the human element for professional advice.” – Shiraz Sethi, DWF

“Lack of legacy is an opportunity: governments are able to invest in smart infrastructure and make it instantly universal. So I can now renew my visa, buy petrol and pay all my government bills on an app. The region could emerge as a technology leader through a knowledge-based youth economy. There is the potential to home-grow skills in technologies such as AI and 3D printing. But for now, even skills in old technologies such as rail are being imported, because there has never been a home-grown rail industry here.” – Matthew Lewis, Boyden

“There is a recognition within professional services that there’s a huge digital transformation going on. Our own people are also facing this transformation and we’ve switched it round from people asking if they will lose their job to AI, to devising digital fitness academies for them and reassuring them that we won’t leave anyone behind.” – Stephen Anderson, PwC

Professional services

HSBC is proud to be supporting the sector on its exciting growth trajectory

Demographics and diversity

In the MENAT marketplace, professional players vie not only for contracts but for a tight pool of potential recruits. Firms are responding by finding new ways to attract and retain people with critical skills.

Growth drivers and predictions

The next few years will see MENAT-based consultancies push into new territories, while boosting their policymaking influence.

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