Hawkamah hosted 12th annual conference with a focus on corporate governance in the age of technology

Hawkamah, The Institute for Corporate Governance, hosted its annual conference on April 30 at Palace Downtown Dubai. A gathering of leading regional and international corporate authorities, the event drew over 200 attendees and provided the perfect platform for a discussion on the 2018 theme, “Navigating Transformation and Disruptions: Overcoming Governance Challenges”.

His Excellency Hamad Buamim – Chairman of Hawkamah, officially opened the conference with an opening address that focused on the importance of a new era of corporate governance due to the modern technological revolution. “The world is changing, rapidly and fundamentally,” he said. “Technological evolutions are at the heart of those changes. The different innovation waves are following each other in ever quickening succession and force companies to adapt more rapidly than ever. Innovation and transformation require organizations which are able to continuously question and reinvent themselves.”

This view was reiterated by Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin – Senior Vice President, World Bank, who added, “We need to invest in Human Asset.” Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin also offered a solution to overcome the obstacles. “We need to invest in Human Asset,” he said. “Human capital is the largest component of global wealth and accounts for an estimated 70 percent of the wealth in rich countries. To ensure that this proposed investment in people successfully contributes to sustainable development, it should include early childhood development, gender equality, providing necessary skills for jobs and equal opportunities.”

Dr. Mohieldin also highlighted fundamental concepts where digital technologies will impact governance, namely digital government, open government and how the government can use these disruptions to transform lives. “It’s how governments draw on the insight of citizens, how they think about and procure technology and how the trends and technologies of the digital era change public institutions and policymaking.

On future challenges facing corporate governance, Dr. Ashraf Gamal El-Din – CEO of Hawkamah, said, “There is a real threat to employees that the coming challenge is self-development and follow advanced technology. The real challenge for a conservative board member is to balance investing in humans and adopt advanced technologies.”

Speaking on what directorial boards can do to ensure continued corporate progress and profitability, HE Buamim said, “Fundamentally, boards need to spend more time on new business initiatives, on testing new business models, on directing investment into R&D, on thinking where the company is going, what its competitors are doing, and what technology and innovation mean for its businesses. They should also try to build longer-term objectives into executive remuneration.”

Following the opening address, the focused shifted to the first discussion “Evolve or Perish”, an in-depth look at the UAE’s vision in trying to shape its future and its greater role in the world. Driving the showcase, H.E Al Shehhi – Undersecretary for Economic Affairs in the UAE Ministry of Economy, said, “The question of how we need to govern these changes is very relevant. We also need to further examine whether our regulations and current governance structures in our corporations and our underlying governance principles continue to be relevant amidst all of these disruptors.”

Further elaborating on the key role the government plays in embracing this evolution of governance, HE said, “The Dubai SMEs, a government entity charged with the development of SMEs in the emirate, issued a corporate governance code for SMEs providing them with a roadmap to improve their corporate governance for the sustainability and growth of their businesses. In 2017, Dubai established the first regional Fintech hive and made sure that the proper regulations and governance structures are in place to protect the investors in this nascent industry. “We are proud of the UAE’s great contribution towards the market of Technology and Corporate Governance and can proudly say that the nation now holds the 21st position in doing business globally.”

He further said: “This ideal combination of important measures also culminated in the UAE government’s procurement purchases being ranked as #1 in the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness Index 2017-2018 when it comes to fostering innovation and the use of advanced technology products”

The event then proceeded with further panel discussions which included in-depth insights by industry leaders including Dr. Ahmad bin Hassan Al Shaikh – Chairman of Ducab, Lino Cattaruzzi – Managing Director, Google and Sophie L’Helias – Board Member, Kering (France), covering a wide spectrum of corporate issues from challenges and potential opportunities as well as re-alignment of incentives, resources, and strategies, to the integral role of the board alongside the UAE’s and regional regulators.

Also witnessed at the event was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Hawkamah and UK-based Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA), a vital partnership that would advance the profession of company secretaries and other governance professionals in the Middle East and North Africa.

Sharing key information on the UAE’s rise to global corporate prominence, Dr. Mounther Barakat, SCA Senior Advisor, revealed that the nation has progressed at an unprecedented rate, clinching an impressive 9th position in 2017’s Global Competitiveness Report, as compared to its 128th ranking just a decade ago.

The lively discussions were further elevated by audience engagement who posed insightful questions while looking for the best corporate strategies to tackle the current corporate governance issues. These include addressing both the needs to adapt to consumer demands without compromising retaining innovative edge trends and competitiveness.