Making sense of the future – an exclusive interview with Alaa Elshimy,Managing Director & VP- Enterprise Business at Huawei

Speaking to MEA Finance, Alaa Elshimy, Managing Director & VP- Enterprise Business at Huawei, explains the changes that are taking place in the banking industry due to the impact of COVID-19 and how Huawei is helping banks in the MENA region to adapt to the new normal

How did COVID-19 and the lockdown across the region affect your plans for 2020?

First, we hope that the pandemic ends as soon as possible. The coronavirus pandemic outbreak has brought uncertainty and new challenges to everyone in many sectors. However, we certainly see that the outbreak has also led to increased demand for ICT products amid a surge in network usage as more people work and meet remotely. Our priority is to ensure the safety of our employees as well as respond to the needs of customers and governments as they fight the pandemic.

You have probably noticed the tremendous growth of the ICT sector in the Middle East as many countries have been working towards expanding their digital footprint while focusing on leveraging advanced technologies to achieve their goals and national visions pre-COVID-19. There is more to do, of course, and as we deal with the pandemic, we must do everything possible to enable the digital transformation of all industries. Huawei is keen to support all organizations to take advantage of the latest technologies during these challenging times. Earlier this month, Huawei announced its H1 2020 results and the financial results showed that business growth stood at 13.1% year-on-year.

How quickly were you able to adapt your service to finance clients’ requirements during the restrictions?

The restrictions did affect Huawei’s business to some extent. When lockdown measures were introduced to stop the spread of the virus there were many projects which were at different stages of implementation for our financial service customers in the region. These projects had to be temporarily put on hold. It also affects the marketing and communication activities. For instance, many of our seminars are postponed or canceled. However, we adapted to the situation quickly to continue the service for our customers. We launched online platforms to allow our customers to access the services digitally such as online POC, online workshop and online commissioning. Currently, we can say, 80% of the history services which we used to provide in person are now changed and delivered digitally.

How did your finance clients approach you for help? Was there a common need or did client requirements vary?

Huawei is a digital technology company. All our solutions are designed to enable the digitalization and automation for our customers. Thus, to some extent our technology is rightly designed for this situation. The requirements from the banks vary a lot depending on the digitalization status. However, we noticed that working from home is a common topic. And this will last for a long period.  Huawei has the IT solution to allow bank staff to remotely access their working environment securely and smoothly at the same time providing solutions for banks to deliver digital banking services to their customers.

What were you able to do for your finance clients that helped them through this time?

As mentioned above, many banks realize the gaps during this crisis and make the actions quickly. For instance, some advanced banks are talking to Huawei regarding digital banking. They expect COVID-19 to change the user behavior forever and digital banking will become an inevitable requirement.  The banks are swiftly moving towards launching digital banking services to attract new customers. Some banks realized the importance of cloud-oriented IT architecture. The old IT architecture cannot fit digital banking and “Working from Home”. They are evaluating the hybrid cloud transformation. Huawei has a UAE partner to launch the public cloud service which makes our value proposition different.  

Are there changes resulting from the Covid restrictions that will now become a permanent way you operate with your finance clients in the region?

Online communication and engagement will become a permanent way. Both us and the bank customers accept this way of communication being efficient and effective. We may not insist on face-to-face communication even after the coronavirus pandemic is over.  Huawei used to provide its customers with hardware boxes that required the installation and commissioning in the banks’ datacenter, but cloud service does not need this. The banks can enable IT functions and resources only through online operations. This simplifies IT for the banks and most of our clients in the banking industry prefer this. We used to estimate that in the GCC region most banks will have at least 50% of IT resources running on the cloud by the end of 2025. Now it may come earlier.