Financial services (FS) firms in the Middle East face a range of well-documented challenges. Some match those facing their peers elsewhere, while others (like the floundering oil price, a troubled real estate market and VAT changes) are more relevant to this region. In responding to this challenging and changing landscape, it’s time that all players in the FS ecosystem considered managed services.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, firms worldwide had to ensure overnight that their employees could work remotely and that they could continue in business. Organisations in the Middle East were equally affected, and we helped clients shift large-scale technology and operations to a completely remote setting in as little as a few days, and did so with no negative impact on their performance.

How did we succeed? In large part by using managed services solutions for key business areas.

People often conflate managed services with traditional outsourcing, but the two are quite different. Outsourcing is common to areas like business process outsourcing (BPO) and knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) – commoditised services run by a third party, and undertaken solely from a cost-saving perspective.

Managed services are a next-level solution. And while, yes, cost-savings are a factor, managed services go much further. They focus on the need for certain specialised skills; are predicated on outcome-based results; reduce risk; incorporate a built-in transformational approach; and see vendors become true partners, not simply suppliers.

Mapping the journey

Managed services solutions allowed our clients to focus on their core business – their services, interactions, capabilities and capacity – while keeping sight of the areas on which they had partnered, and unlocking value in near-real-time.

One of the strengths of managed services solutions is that they can help all players in the FS ecosystem (regulators, other government agencies, banks, payment service providers and exchange houses) act fast, be innovative, be more efficient and resilient.

Although these benefits have historically been better understood in Europe and the US than in the Middle East, we’ve noticed an uptick in interest here recently, with clients asking questions like:

  • Is a managed services solution viable for my FS firm? (Answer: Probably.)
  • In which areas does it work best? (Answer: Our framework helps to define this answer; typically, these areas include technology and operations.)
  • Will I lose control over those areas? (Answer: No, provided the process is properly managed.)

Clients also want to know what factors to consider when seeking a managed services partner. That requires a much longer answer, but it’s one we cover in our in-depth article on managed services.

The “Never Normal” months of 2020 have seen banks, regulators and others in the Middle East’s FS sector work together to manage numerous challenges, including remote working. Looking ahead, this need to be agile, nimble and flexible won’t change.

Partnering with managed services providers has already helped some FS firms adapt to this new world. It might well be able to help yours too. Find out more in our article on managed services.

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