INTERNATIONAL. Talent Partners in the Gulf made its debut in the retained executive search and human resources arena in February, positioning itself as the market leader in the Middle East. On a recent visit to Dubai, BI-ME caught up with the man behind the move, Managing Director of publicly-listed international human resources heavy weight, Talent2 International, Andrew Banks.
Andrew Banks is one of the most respected business leaders in the global human resources and recruitment industry. In 1985 Andrew Banks founded Morgan & Banks with Geoff Morgan. Together they grew the company to become the dominant recruitment force in Australia and Asia, before selling to TMP Worldwide (Monster.com) in 1999. The newly-formed company in Dubai, Talent Partners in the Gulf, follows the acquisition of InterSearch in the Gulf by Talent2 International.
InterSearch in the Gulf has been in the region for more than ten years and has grown to be the largest retained executive search firm in the GCC. Now it has become Talent Partners in the Gulf, the division of Talent2 that specialises in retained executive search.
Talent2’s Managing Director Andrew Banks, says the decision recognises expanding global interest in the Middle East. “Talent2’s move into the Middle East is not only a reflection of the obvious growth and opportunities based on capital flows at this time but also a recognition of the growing global interest from highly skilled candidates across many industries who are looking for opportunities in and around the region,” he says.
Because Talent2 is one of the dominant players in the fast growing region of Asia, having a solid UK and Middle East base forms a strong nexus for servicing expanding multi-national clients moving between those regions as well as local companies who have more traditional requirements for talent.
Talent2 International brings to the region significant human capital resources from Asia and Europe. These resources, combined with InterSearch in the Gulf’s existing portfolio, positions Talent Partners in the Gulf as a market leader in the Middle East.
“With 35 plus people in four offices in the Gulf, this immediately ranks Talent Partners in the Gulf as one of the largest executive search and human capital organisations in the Middle East,” says Banks.
He adds that he sees a big frontier coming for the Middle East and Asia in terms of absorbing a lot of experienced professionals who are going to be surplus to requirements in the troubled financial markets of Europe and the US.
The additional ‘reach’ of the group in serving global businesses is already being deployed. Talent Partners in the Gulf plans to open in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait later this year to add to it existing offices in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and Qatar.
In this interview we asked Andrew Banks about how we should define HR and talent management in today’s globalised world, how the Middle East fits into the plans of the multinationals, the challenges of bringing different business cultures together and which skill sets are being demanded now and in the future.
BI-ME: The entry of your company and others into Dubai seems to confirm that there is a lot more sophistication about the skills being demanded and how they can be identified and brought to the Middle East. Would you say that is true? What are your observations about how the region is changing in the HR field?
AB: We will have six offices in the Middle East, not just Dubai, and we connect to our operations in the UK and 17 countries in Asia and Australasia. We have seen that here in the Middle East, there is an important staging post for business, stretching from Europe and North America to Asia. The world is increasingly made up of global people who are loyal to their work.
We have 81 researchers who are constantly searching the GCC for clients or searching globally depending on the requirement. So the Middle East is an important part of our global footprint.
BI-ME: A recurring theme is that the regional skills shortage is ongoing and it is going to get worse with housing and other factors in short supply. What is your comment on that and which skills do you see in high demand?
AB: This is a discussion that I hear constantly all around the world, not just in the Middle East, and it goes across skill sets. The world is starved of human capital. Our expertise is in the sectors that are more dependent on people in the business matrix and these include the airlines, finance, services, real estate and so on, including retail, but not the complex, less people-dependent industries such as autos and oil. I would say that compliance people, actuaries and these kinds of risk specialists are very hard to find at the moment. Demand for some of the very technical financial skills is also growing in this part of the world.
These days to attract most people it is a combination of the challenge and the money. Finance and property are two sectors that are very active, but people are now coming to the Middle East not just to make money. With the global economy wobbling, this makes the region even more attractive.
BI-ME: So you mean the economic problems in the West will actually help to ease the tight labour situation in the Gulf?
AB: The next 18 months will certainly see a slowdown in the economies of the Western world. But I do not see any spike in unemployment, because the availability of human capital is so scarce, there is no slack in the chain. There is a sense that human capital is becoming rarer and more expensive, so companies are saying ‘we had better get it right’. Talent management is a central part of the strategy now.
BI-ME: When we talk about talent management as the process of developing and fostering new workers through onboarding, developing and keeping current workers and attracting highly skilled workers, do you think that is the correct definition? How would you describe this transition from personnel to HR to talent management?
AB: Talent management is the term used by the HR function of global companies. What this tells us is that how, as a global company, they manage the process of attracting and retaining human capital and breaking down the internal barriers. We are seeing that more and more companies have a very specific search requirement, for an individual based in Asia with an interest in the Middle East, with a certain experience. And people with this international experience are being valued.
BI-ME: Traditionally the multinationals brought their people to the Middle East on fixed contracts from outside the region, and there was relatively little fluidity between the companies of the region, possibly because of the sponsorship and the visa system. Would you say that is still true? Is it a weakness if there is not movement of people in the same industry?
AB: They are starting to move between companies. I would add that the leaders here are leaders who can remove any blockages in the infrastructure. If we think of the labour laws of Germany for example, there are many more restrictions there that are holding back the economy. The world is too transparent now, there is nowhere to hide. The Internet and recruiters like us are adding to this transparency.
Note: Talent Partners in the Gulf is a division of Talent2 International, a publicly-listed company on the Australian Stock Exchange specialising in retained executive search and total human resources solutions in the Middle East.
Talent Partners in the Gulf is online at www.talentpartners.com.au