An Advisory Event in Dubai Unlike Any Other

This is not a typical conference

This is not a typical conference

 

Here we go again.

 

Another day, another city, another GTB Advisory event.
Well, not just any advisory event but the biggest, longest and first publicly advertised client Advisory event!  Held at the stunning Park Hyatt hotel (think typical opulent Dubai, lush, green grass everywhere, golf course…er hang on I thought you said Dubai, as in sand, desert, no water etc?  Ah but no this really is Dubai, not-a-problem Dubai, yes there was a huge sandstorm two days ago, nobody could see ANYTHING, but not today, clear, beautiful blue sky, gentle sun – what I call a glorious warm summer’s day and the locals call ‘cold’ – sand, not a problem, no water, not a problem, desert, not a problem, where there’s a will there’s a Dubai way, as I sit on the terrace overlooking the creek, thousands of $m+ yachts bobbing gently as seaplanes land and take off for my personal entertainment…well for five minutes anyway I can sit there, no more, before back to check the room etc…) – where was I? got a bit carried away there…yes…held at the stunning Park Hyatt hotel (etc etc) and deliberately timed to precede the EMEA Finance Awards dinner where our great friends Mashreq Bank would that evening sweep the Oscars with three trophies.
But I get ahead of myself.

 

So over 60 registrations from ALL the key, top UAE and many regional clients and banks, and in each case the right people, the right contacts, the right level, CEOs, COOs, top product managers, etc.  Fab job to the local team for mobilising the region and a tribute to both them and to our excellent standing in the region. Plus a few select corporations, from foodstuffs to ports to manufacturing etc.  And press, the editor of Cash and Trade magazine a speaker, even the Financial Times’s Gulf correspondent put his head in, and Government, David Kaye from the UK mission.  Plus us.

 

So here’s the thing, and this was my opening address. We meet as equals. We vote.  We discuss. We create output.  This is not a typical conference, with bepedestalled, bigged-up, gracious ‘presenters’ (performers) patronising count-themselves-lucky, lap-it-up, sit-back-and-relax, passive ‘listeners’ (delegates).  Oh no.  You can’t snooze at these events, check your email.  Pay attention!  Here’s another question for you…get out your voting machines. For example, the group decided (50% of them) that ME banks lag significantly in technology!  91% felt some sort of catch up was needed.  So I threw out the pompous ‘top table’, threw out seating ‘the speakers’ (bow now, please) being on a separate table, threw out fanfares for introduction, and instead we had fun making each table choose a name and contribute to the discussion.

 

What’s in a name?  We had ‘the Middle Eastern Wonders’ was one, modest table.  One was ‘the 7 Ds’ (a blatant attempt to upstage our own (now) Andrew England, who presented ‘the 7 Cs’ but only half hearted else they’d have been the ‘8 Ds’ or even the ‘30,000 Zs’ – that would be real ambition), the ‘Almost Arab Table’ and the ‘All Arab Table’ – enough of this nonsense, I named one table, where I was perched, ‘Phil’s Table’ and one ‘Next to Phil’s Table Table’.   Oh and I also showed them how to be rock stars, that is, how to hold a microphone (and why).

 

So Andrew up first.  His pedigree shouts and demands respect (running transaction banking at Lloyds, same for CEE at Unicredit, cash and trade at Deutsche, Citi before that, now holding down Senior Advisor on TB with McKinsey at the same time as our own Strategy Director, see last week’s press release) but what REALLY demanded respect and attention was what he said (and how he said it).  His devastatingly simple but insightful breakdown of the Transaction Bank’s head’s to-do list in terms of seven ‘C’s – made brilliantly memorable by Nancy’s ‘seven seas’ map graphics – all backed up by solid data from McKinsey, BCG etc, hyperlinked into the Powerpoint, drew great praise from the audience.

 

His pedigree shouts and demands respect.
Andrew England: His pedigree shouts and demands respect’

 

Mashreq Bank have done great things, winning three awards just yesterday, but showing a David-and-Goliath story taking on much bigger banks with their mashreqMATRIX – powered of course by iGTB.  Harshit, their product manager who turns out also to be a University Professor, took us through some learnings including how to buy bread, a well-appreciated turn of phrase ‘not growing is riskier than growing’ and reuse of Michael Porter’s ever-relevant warning about trying to be best in more then one of product leadership, customer intimacy and operational excellence (hang on, has he read our ‘key proposition’ slide?  Harshit, I mean, not Porter….though maybe….).

 

After lunch we had two iGTB sessions, from Phil and Henry.  Phil deferentially spent most of his time wagging his finger at the bankers and saying ‘you must do this’ and ‘you must do that’.  Reminded me a bit of KS’s spirited approach to negotiation ;-). But he was talking about regulations so got away with it. Henry gave a laconic and I-don’t-know-if-you’ve-ever-heard-of-lit’l’ol’-Oklahoma sort of talk on payments with a southern drawl explaining how backwards we all were in banking payments.

 

After a provocative talk from the Deputy Chairman of the Kanoo group – which divided the audience – we drew together the themes of the day from the various interactions and votes, courtesy of Hani al Maskati, editor and publisher of Cash and Trade magazine. Some interesting results came up you’ll no doubt read about there.   A veteran of, you’ve guessed it, Citi!  Also transaction banking consultant with the excellently named company Cash Management Matters.

 

Manish closed, emphasising our strength and depth in the region (first time really we talked about us) then Henry knocked their socks off with Onyx.  And all the time we were tweeting, filming, recording, interacting, overacting (in my case, at least) and we announced already the NEXT ME CLIENT ADVISORY EVENT – WEDNESDAY 24 FEBRUARY, 2016.

 

My special memories:

 

– Dinner with Hani, a very interesting man.

 

– The Financial Times interviewing Manish.

 

– Meeting the classical trio we sponsored at the Awards dinner.  (Competition time: Irena plays flute.  The girl from Argentina does not play violin.  The girl from Belarus has a bow.  Clara’s Cello comes from the flute player’s home town in Macedonia. Olga speaks better English than the girl on either side.  The flute needs space on its right hand side.  Work out who plays what, from what country, and in what order they are sitting. And yes they really ARE their names. And instruments and home countries.)

 

Lara, Irene and Olga

Lara, Irene and Olga

 

– Silversmith course and childrens’ cause. To get people used to the voting machines we had a ‘fastest finger’ competition – who could first guess the correct number of companies in the world?  The winner was a banker, Neena, and her prize is a free four hour course with a silversmith making herself some jewellery. This is something we bid on and won at the charity EMEA Awards dinner, and so all the money will also go to the Save The Children Fund.  So two good things at one go.
A marvelous evening.

A marvelous evening.

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