KHALED W. AL-DHAHER

Saudi Arabia 2021 | INDUSTRY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Khaled W. Al-Dhaher, Country Managing Director of Accenture, on achieving Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia's role in the region, and financial services.

What makes Accenture different from its competitors in helping achieve Vision 2030?

Accenture in Saudi Arabia wants to make sure it is the partner of choice as the government goes through Vision 2030 and that whatever it offers in the market is building on that. We focus on four major areas. One is privatization and commercialization. The privatization journey is a long but important one, because the entity going through privatization wants it done in a structured manner with good governance and maximized interest. The commercialization part is where the assets remain, though you want to enhance the return on that particular investment. Our role is to ensure the experience for privatization and commercialization is maximized. The second area is optimization, which is ensuring our clients continue to provide best-quality services to their clients, whether they are banks, retail organizations, or in travel and tourism. The third area we focus on is digital transformation, which is core to the vision and what many industries we work with in Saudi Arabia consider a priority. The last element is the people. We want to be the partner of choice with our clients for their people as we go through this transformation. All these elements are core to the vision and transformation taking place in the country.

What specific services have you developed for the Saudi market, and what is your opinion of the country's digital transformation?

Technology and digital transformation are critical especially if we look at payment platforms. Customers can use their credit cards, though it has evolved from scanning a card to using point-of- sale systems, tapping, and now to phones. Financial services in Saudi Arabia is the largest business for Accenture, so part of that is making sure that we provide our clients with our experience on how to enhance that journey. The second element Accenture brings to the table is around ventures and entrepreneurship, which is encouraging both local entrepreneurs and ventures from around the world to provide even further value to our clients. At any point in time, we look at between 10,000 and 15,000 start-ups around the world, and we encourage local engagements to explore that.

How will the current economic transformation shape the role of Saudi Arabia in the region?

Economic development in Saudi Arabia is moving toward diversification of different types of industry. There is still a big dependency on oil, oil products, and chemicals, though I see other industries like tourism and entertainment developing as well. In financial services, too, we can see some clear leaders, like Saudi Payments developed by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) and where billions of dollars are transacted every day. SAMA also built a platform called ESAL, a B2B e-payment platform that enables enhanced financial transaction management and reduces the need for cash payments as well as parallel transactions that are not linked to commercial transactions. By linking payments with transactions, you reduce the amount of paperwork and physical cash movement with increased transparency. It can also enhance other financial transactions such as taxes and VAT so that you do not have to print a receipt and submit to the tax authorities as it is all linked to the other entities.

What is your vision for matching a transformed Saudi economy with a skilled Saudi workforce?

We want to make sure the talent in the market providing various services is locally based. We look at the talents of the future, as there is talent that is basic and continues to be in demand but is more commoditized. There are many entities to help develop that type of talent for basic programming, technology or operation. AI, for example, is a certain direction where we need to ensure there is talent in the Saudi market that can provide the services required. There are other areas like security that will continue to be a focus area, and talent development for security will continue to be in demand. This can be security on infrastructure, data, applications, interfacing, and so on.

What sort of a Saudi economy do you see in five years, and where do you see opportunities?

I see economic development being around tourism, hospitality, and entertainment. Logistics and supply chain will also be a significant element of the economic mixture. Financial services are another big area that can be a significant part of how the economy will be developed. Within that, there are many different elements. Hospitality and tourism opportunities could be around physical locations like Neom or the Red Sea as well as around family entertainment or experience entertainment. We also need to remain focused on how technology and AI will impact this. The impact of the proper adoption and deployment of AI in Saudi Arabia by 2030 will be more than USD200 billion in terms of additional economic impact.