Oliver Wyman: Fuel for innovation top concern Gulf CEO

23 March 2015 Consultancy.uk

Securing fuel for innovation is the top concern for CEOs in the Gulf, the most recent survey among Gulf CEOs by Oliver Wyman and Zogby shows. While CEOs have gained optimism concerning the current business conditions in their country, they see risks in the on-going talent war, lack of capital to grow and the insufficient infrastructure – all of which negatively impact innovation.

Global management consulting firm Oliver Wyman together with public opinion research firm Zogby Research recently released the results of their 10th Oliver Wyman/Zogby survey of 219 senior executives in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Kuwait. The survey is set up to track private sector leadership confidence levels and economic reform priorities in the region.

10th Oliver Wyman - Zogby survey

The results highlight the optimism across the Gulf, which, after the dip expressed at the last poll, has returned and reached a peak in all regions except Saudi Arabia, where the peak was seen during the fifth poll in 2011. The biggest bump in confidence from last year is seen in Kuwait, where confidence increased with more than 50% from 38% to 93%, and in Qatar, which saw an increase of 33% from 56% to 89%.

Confidence over the past years

Although confidence has returned, concerns among the CEOs remain as the region is affected by the falling oil prices and continued violence in the region. However, according to the report, these are not the main concerns keeping these CEOs ‘up at night’. The survey indicates that the main concern of Gulf CEOs is the shortage of fuel for continued innovation and competitiveness, with the report noting that “the needs for investment, talent, research, and infrastructure are stubborn obstacles to innovation within the four countries.”

When asked about their worries concerning talent, investment, and infrastructure, the 48% of respondents rate the risk of capital ‘very significantly’ for their business, which is an increase of 7%. Slightly less, 45%, view the talent war as a significantly risk, with 75% of CEOs in the UAE concerned about talent. Existing infrastructure is cited as concern by 38%, a number that is slightly up from last year.

Risk for business in the next 5 years

With the lack in talent, research, infrastructure and regulatory support seen as obstacles to innovation, the survey researched the biggest hurdles. The lack of new ideas and research was mentioned as an important obstacle to innovation by more than half of the respondents (54%), with the highest percentage found in UAE, where almost 64% cited this as important. The lack of talent (43%) and lack of infrastructure (41%) are also viewed as big hurdles. Overall, more CEOs in UAE are experiencing obstacles to innovation, compared to Saudi Arabia, where the concerns are the smallest.

Innovation faces hurdles

Commenting on the results of the survey, Pedro Oliveira, Partner and Middle East & Africa Region Head for Oliver Wyman, says: “Executives in the region are still playing the long game in their concern for the ways to make their achievements sustainable. They want continued internal investment, a flexible and capable workforce, secure and free-flowing business knowledge, and a continued strong partnership with their governments.”

The report was presented during last Friday's FT Live Strategic Forum held in Dubai.