Oct. 21, 2020

Nader Haffar

UAE, Abu Dhabi

Nader Haffar

Chairman & CEO, KPMG

“We have seen rapid and inspired change in Abu Dhabi over the past year.”


Nader Haffar has been the Chairman & CEO of KPMG in the Lower Gulf (UAE and Oman) since 2018. Prior to taking up this role, he served as head of the firm's management consultancy practice and oversaw considerable growth in that part of the business. He has a long and distinguished career with KPMG and has considerable knowledge of the Middle East markets, having also worked with the firm in Saudi Arabia. In 2019, he was recognized by Forbes Middle East as one of the Top 50 Expat CEOs in the UAE. He holds a bachelor of science in industrial engineering from Northeastern University in Boston and a master of science in engineering management from Columbia University in New York. He also completed executive management programs from Colombia University and Harvard Business School.

What resilience have you seen within your organization since the pandemic started?

We are fortunate because our aim has been to assist other companies to build up their resilience through innovative strategies, and this time we were able to put this into practice ourselves. For us, the shift came quickly, even before the effects of the initial impact. There was a degree of uncertainty initially; we were unsure about the extent of the impact the pandemic would have on our business operations. However, we discovered that our previous investments in our infrastructure, technology, and the development of our people were now paying off. We were able to resume work immediately as we had the requisite infrastructure to handle the demand. We emerged from this experience a stronger and more connected firm. We continue to be committed to the health and well-being of the communities in which we operate. One of the things we did very well was to activate a business continuity plan to safeguard our people, protect our employees' financial welfare, provide operational and service continuity, and deliver on client obligations. Our initial Crisis Management Committee established formal workstreams for every critical function, which addressed key issues and mitigation measures for potential impact areas associated with COVID-19.

What have been the main sources of resilience at the national level?

We have seen rapid and inspired change in Abu Dhabi over the past year. The foundation of this ethos of resilience has been government innovation and prudent policymaking, which resulted in a sound working environment, world-class infrastructure, and continuous support and investment in the education system. The government is forward-thinking in terms of creating a digital strategy for the country and continuing to invest in infrastructure. In the UAE, particularly in Abu Dhabi, there has been a tremendous amount of investment in infrastructure, technology, digitalization, government process improvement, and policy development toward human resources. The high levels of investment in infrastructure, people, and technology have sustained the economy and will be key to its growth after the pandemic.

Has KPMG incorporated any new tactics or strategies to motivate, upskill, or reskill its employees during this pandemic?

Absolutely. Our communications have consistently focused on the health and safety of our employees and their families. As we were not quite sure of how our people and their productivity would be impacted during the initial few weeks, we asked them to invest time in their own learning and development during the first few weeks. We have a great distance learning program that helped our people transition to being able to work productively on their client engagements. Across all our engagements, it is important that we are able to give our clients comfort around data security and confidentiality of information. I am proud that we were able to maintain trust and integrity in a remote working environment. Our advisory business has done well, and we continue to attract top talent to provide innovative solutions and transformation programs to our clients. We have worked with many government entities, particularly in Abu Dhabi. One of the interesting programs we worked on was the Go Safe Certification campaign to certify all ho-tels and service apartments in Abu Dhabi, as well as museums, libraries, malls, theme parks, and Sheikh Zayed Mosque. We were also able to constantly connect with the KPMG Global network to work with our global colleagues jointly on projects and develop innovative solutions quickly. Technology enables tapping into talent anywhere in the world.