TBY talks to Alfred Strolla, Managing Partner of Deloitte, on in-country value and the importance of training nationals to become the entrepreneurs of the future.

Alfred Strolla
Alfred Strolla has over 37 years of assurance and advisory experience within the profession and brings with him a wealth of experience in the GCC region in assurance and advisory engagements. From a tax perspective, he currently deals with international tax queries relating to the Sultanate of Oman from Deloitte & Touche offices worldwide, in particular GCC countries, USA, UK, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and India. Alfred’s services are also called upon for tax Planning, tax compliance, transfer pricing, as well as setting up companies in the Sultanate of Oman and double taxation treaties with the Sultanate of Oman.

Can you give us a brief overview of Deloitte's evolution since its inception here in the Sultanate of Oman?

Deloitte has been in the Middle East for the last 87 years, and in 2004 we officially registered the Deloitte name in the Sultanate of Oman. It has been a successful journey since then to the point where we have won the most prestigious audits in the Sultanate in sectors such as oil and gas, energy and utilities, financial services, and hospitality. We have also assisted with several advisory engagements in the oil and gas industry, as well as the electricity, water, and financial services sectors.

What is the importance of the Sultanate within Deloitte's operations in the GCC?

Oman is an important market and part of the GCC countries that pay particular attention to development and tend to work closely with different government institutions for the development of the local economy. Deloitte is a fully integrated practice in the Middle East, by which we mean that all the offices work closely together. As a result, we have many specialists from other offices assisting us in our complex advisory work. It is not just the Omani office supporting the Omani community; when necessary, we do bring in specialists from other offices.

What is your competitive advantage?

Our development of Omani staff, together with our adherence to best practice in Oman, and our close relationship with the Capital Market Authority (CMA), ensure that there is proper corporate governance within Oman. In addition, we work very closely with the Central Bank of Oman and other regulators to ensure that best practices are adhered to.

How has corporate governance improved in the country?

Corporate governance in Oman is strong. Oman has been the leader in the establishment of robust corporate governance regulations when compared to other countries in the region. Furthermore, the government takes adherence to corporate governance very seriously.

What is the main challenge here in the Sultanate?

It is in-country value (ICV). When we came here, we were advocates for this and made sure that the ICV principles were adhered to by many operating oil companies. Encouraging Omanis to join the industry, whether in auditing, advisory roles, consulting, or tax, is critical to the successful growth of the profession in Oman.

Are Omanis predominantly prepared for the job or do you train them?

We need to provide them with training. Then, it is always a challenge to retain them. There have been significant steps taken to improve SMEs and entrepreneurship within Oman. At our conference in 2013, our key focus was on SMEs and how we as an advisory firm could help. The government is well aware of the CMA initiative to promote SMEs, but it will take some time. Omanization is a challenge, for example finding sufficient numbers of qualified Omani accountants in the market is an issue. We take university graduates and train them before they qualify as accountants. The Omanization target for professional services firms is set fairly high and we are expected to develop our Omani staff very quickly. I would say that more than Omanization, you have to make sure that the financial institutions are ready to support and finance SMEs. If an SME is launched, it is a challenge for them to go to the bank and ask them for finance. The banks would not like to take the risk. The government of Oman is establishing several funds to assist, but it will still be a challenge to make sure that SMEs are adequately financed. The other key concept is to ensure they have the correct entrepreneurship coaching, which is a subject that is becoming popular worldwide. You need to teach many of these SMEs how to become proper entrepreneurs and to run their businesses efficiently.