EFG's new training program is banking on talent

Sherine El Madany
6 Min Read

CAIRO: The strength of EFG-Hermes, the largest investment bank in the Middle East, lies not only in its continuous climb up the stock market or its revenues that amounted to some LE 2.6 billion last year. The firm counts on its investment in a pipeline of talent to give it an edge over the competition.

“People don’t just work for money. If they know a company is investing in them, psychologically it’s very important, said Declan Ball, EFG’s head of corporate human resources.

“If you know we are investing a lot of money in you, this sends out a very big signal: That you are wanted, and my experience is that people stay with a company when they know they are wanted.

To that end, EFG-Hermes each year brings in almost 30 trainees to join in its Investment Banking Program (IBP). “Every year, EFG goes to the top schools in the Middle East such as the American University in Cairo, the American University in Beirut and the London Business School, he added. “Next year, we will [also include] Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge and Stanford universities, so basically, we’re bringing in very good people; and this is how we bring in fresh blood.

However, what EFG-Hermes has created this year is an extension program to its IBP that is offered to senior employees. “What we didn’t have – and what banks and firms in Egypt do not have – is development programs for senior people, Ball said.

This year, EFG’s governing body selected 21 senior employees to participate in the Executive Development Program (EDP), an intensive program designed to capitalize on the skills, identify the strengths and weaknesses, and maximize the management potential of participants.

“We want to put them into a microwave for four-five days and get them thinking the same way, stated Ball.

The EDP – held in Jordan – consists of two phases. The first phase is a five-day seminar taught by Ulrich Wiechmann, ex-Harvard Business School professor. Phase two offers one-on-one coaching sessions for three months, where participants are given tailor-made personal training and development needed to push their career forward.

The program, Ball added, is based on four pillars, the first of which is people management, looking into whether senior executives understand how to manage subordinates. Self-management explores strengths and weaknesses; strategic management provides means of handling EFG’s new strategy; and change management enables senior executives to manage expansion plans and easily go from one state to another.

“Three years ago, EFG was an Egyptian firm operating only in Egypt. Now, it’s a regional firm [present] in six countries, and we’re expanding very quickly, Ball clarified. “How do you convert this? For example, if you were to go to Dubai, you would have a team of different nationalities. How do you manage this?

Over the years, EFG-Hermes has emerged as the largest investment bank in the Middle East, with offices in Egypt, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar.

Based on recent statistics, the firm’s net operating margin jumped 66.7 percent to LE 1.55 billion in 2007. Total assets under management clambered to $7.5 billion (LE 40 billion). Its research department ranked first place in nine of 14 categories in a Middle East survey conducted by Euromoney magazine, and it finished 2007 as the top broker in Egypt and the Emirates.

“Our philosophy at EFG is that we believe if you have a beautiful car, you have to maintain it, and training is maintenance, Ball explained. “The difference between training and development is that training is what is required for the job. Development is what you want for your career.

This sort of maintenance is what the EDP offers participants. But what does it add to EFG’s market leadership position, especially that the firm has invested several million Egyptian pounds to design such a program?

“It will help our expansion plans because our ability to expand in the region depends on having a number of people who think the same way. It also allows me to find out people’s strengths and weaknesses, said Ball.

Ball is confident this investment is worthwhile and that EFG will get its money back. “Why we’re doing it? Because we believe to replace one of these people, it will cost me two-year’s money.. So for us, we call this talent maintenance.

“If the program [proves its success], I imagine we will do it again, and I imagine competitors will try to do it as well, he added.

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