PROGRESS, AS AND WHEN NECESSARY

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

As Vision 2030 forces firms to become more modern and efficient, the market for advisory services has never been riper.

Omer Saleem
BIOGRAPHY
Omer Saleem has 10 years of experience in the financial sector, especially in financial management, valuations, and strategy. Before joining Proven, he worked for Credit Agricole and Goldman Sachs, and was Assistant VP of hedge fund valuations at State Street, each in Toronto. In 2016, he was appointed CFO of Proven SA and Proven Consult. He obtained his bachelors in finance at York University and holds an MBA from the University of Toronto.

Could you tell us more about the range of services you provide?

Proven SA provides business support solutions to clients in three main areas: immigration and government relations, HR management and advisory, and business process outsourcing and shared services. We provide a full spectrum of solutions that support both local and foreign businesses navigating the Saudi market in the above areas. In the past nine years, we have built an extensive knowledge base, and our team of consultants strives to stay on top of the ever-changing local regulatory environment. We enable our clients to focus on their core competencies, while Proven takes care of non-core functions, including government relations, human resource management, recruitment, payroll, finance and accounting, and IT support. Our staff specializes in their respective areas, ensuring the highest quality levels for all service delivery. Thus, our clients can maintain a lean operational model in a cost-effective manner while ensuring that quality is not compromised in the performance of non-core functions.

What are the recent trends in employment, and how has female employment advanced?

Vision 2030 has had many organizations looking inward to identify areas for improvement and efficiency gains. Many organizations are now pivoting toward hiring from the local talent pool, especially with the rising costs associated with maintaining an expat workforce. This localization has become more of a strategic necessity for Saudi organizations, as opposed to a simple operational requirement, and more organizations are starting to realize that and taking active steps toward localization. This leads them to rethink their existing operational models, redefine cost structures, and find new efficiencies. They are now investing more in long-term, sustainable HR policies as opposed to short wins, which were possible with expat labor pool. On the supply side, the local labor pool has made immense improvements compared to just five years ago. This is especially prevalent with female candidates, who are highly educated and equally motived to add value to the organizations they join. The potential for female candidates to create value for the local economy is further enhanced with the social and regulatory changes being implemented rapidly. This allows organizations to further adopt new localization strategies, develop long-term HR capabilities, and reduce turnover through active retention.

What does Saudization mean for your international sourcing of candidates and overall operations?

Proven SA is on the frontline of the local market when it comes to the Saudi human resources industry. We have been observing a significant shift in strategy from the demand side since late 2016. As such, we have adjusted our own service offerings to better meet our clients' needs. We have always invested heavily to develop specific capabilities and resources that cater to the local talent pool and make them accessible for existing and new clients. Our approach has always been to bridge the gap between incoming multinational firms and the local resource pool. However, recently many local organizations have started to avail these service and advisory offerings to streamline their operations and enhance their bandwidth. We hope to continue to add value to the local economy by providing innovative localization solutions while sourcing the best talent from offshore markets as and when necessary.

What are your key recommendations for companies interested in setting up operations in the Kingdom?

Saudi Arabia is the single-biggest market in the GCC region. There are strong and vibrant sectors opening up that offer immense potential for companies looking to do business here. The recent reforms have made the market more accessible for conducting business. Any company wanting to diversify its income portfolio in the MENA region needs to conduct a serious feasibility exercise into the Saudi market. Having the right information regarding the market, processes, and regulations is critical. Solid local partners and on-the-ground research are essential here. Our advice is to ensure companies filter through the noise and analyze their respective sectors thoroughly.