The ‘We the UAE 2031’ vision is a national plan through which the UAE will continue its development path for the next decade and enhance its position as a global partner and an attractive and influential economic hub. A key component of this vision is a nationalisation plan, which aims to maximise the contribution of the country's citizens in all sectors of the UAE economy.

In many industries, finding local talent to fill specialist roles requiring particular skillsets or qualifications has proven a sticking point.

In response, the Emirates Institute of Finance (EIF) launched the Nationalisation Initiative for Talent Development – Harnessing Human Capital Mission. The first project under it is called ETHRAA. Inspired by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE), this comprehensive programme is tailored to equip and empower the next generation of professionals to make their mark in a dynamic financial industry. 

EIF is the United Arab Emirate’s leading training institution in the financial sector, operating with the support of the country's Central Bank. Since its establishment in 1983, EIF has played a key role in the training and development of UAE talent. While initially focussing on banking, EIF has evolved to become the talent-development powerhouse of the UAE’s financial sector. It has trained over 400,000 professionals across a broad range of specialisms, and works with more than 100 local and global banks, insurance and exchange companies. 

What is the challenge?

Previously, less than 10% of specialist critical roles in the financial sector were filled by UAE nationals. These jobs are considered essential for the stability of the UAE’s financial system and wider economy, and therefore the CBUAE (led by the governor and chairman of EIF, H.E. Khaled Balama) aimed to use the ETHRAA project to tackle the persistent challenge of finding local talent to fill these crucial roles. 

Most local citizens worked in retail banking and operations, and the industry cited the scarcity of ‘qualified’ and ‘skilled’ UAE National talent in the market as the core reason for not taking up nationalisation of critical roles. The Central Bank and EIF wanted a solution which could solve these issues at scale, thus responding to the ‘We the UAE 2031’ vision, without hurting industry competitiveness.

What are the objectives?

Designed and executed by EIF from the guidance of the CBUAE, ETHRAA is a far-reaching strategy for talent development and workforce nationalisation. 

  • Core objectives: 
    • Address the lack of professionally qualified and skilled UAE National talent in critical departments of the banking and insurance sectors. 
    • Create 5,000 new ‘critical’ jobs for UAE Nationals by 2026, with 3,500 jobs in the banking sector and 1,500 in insurance.
  • Banking sector objectives:
    • Achieve a 45% Emiratisation rate by 2026.
    • Target a 45% Emiratisation rate in critical jobs by 2026.
    • Secure a 30% Emiratisation rate in Chief Experience Officers (CXOs) by 2026. 
  • Insurance sector objective: 
    • Achieve a 30% Emiratisation rate by 2026. 

How was the project structured?

ETHRAA was designed as a holistic talent and career-acceleration solution which focuses on three core pillars of getting young UAE National graduates ‘Skilled’, ‘Professionally Qualified’ and with the ‘Right Mindsets for Success’.

The project focuses on industry engagement, critical role identification, candidate identification and assessment, raising awareness, the design and implementation of 22 learning journeys and tracking progress towards the objectives.

Industry engagement

The initiative is led by His Highness Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Having such high-level leadership backing is a key aspect of the programme, signalling the government's commitment to change. 

H.E Saif Al Dhaheri, Vice Chairman of EIF and Assistant Governor of the CBUAE, has stated that engagement and collaboration between the CEOs of UAE banks and insurance companies with the government has been of crucial importance. This collaboration was facilitated by government policies and incentives, emphasising the importance of public-private partnerships in achieving Emiratisation goals. This also helped to identify and target high-growth sectors within the financial industry, such as digital and fintech.

EIF conducted more than 15 focus group meetings to seek input from sector leaders in each functional area of the initiative and align the outcomes with industry requirements. Another example of industry engagement is the active involvement of  managers through the various on-the-job-training interventions during the programme. 

Critical role identification 

ETHRAA identifies and maps specific job roles in the banking and insurance sectors and provides tailored learning journeys to prepare candidates for these positions. The critical areas were identified in consultation with the CBUAE, the UAE Banks Federation and the various industry forums. 

The critical areas were identified as: 

  • Banking
    • Audit and compliance
    • Treasury, wealth management & investment
    • Risk
    • Credit
    • Sustainability
    • Quantitative finance
    • Project finance
    • Accountancy
    • Trade finance
    • SME & corporate banking relationship managers
    • Human capital
    • Project management
    • Procurement 
  • Digital and fintech
    • Cyber security
    • Programming
    • Data science
    • Data engineering
  • Insurance
    • Actuarial
    • Underwriting
    • Claim management
Candidate pool identification

The programme goes beyond recruitment by spotting and nurturing talented Emirati graduates from leading universities. EIF worked with the careers centres at various UAE universities to connect students with the finance industry, by creating a state-of-the-art job platform where the sector could identify relevant talent. 

Detailed assessment 

ETHRAA employs rigorous assessments, psychometrics, interviews and role-fitment tests to ensure that candidates are well-suited for their roles. The suitability of candidates for critical specialist functions is tested by using AI-backed assessment solutions which map and match their backgrounds, professional aspirations and competencies to a relevant career opportunity. Following the initial level of assessment by EIF, the candidates are interviewed by the banks or insurance companies based on their criteria, and, if successful, are offered employment in a specialist function.

Awareness creation

ETHRAA seeks to create awareness among learners about various critical roles and career opportunities in the targeted sectors. It also conducts awareness campaigns targeting top-level management in banks and insurance companies. This proactive approach ensures active engagement and support from key stakeholders, and plays a crucial role in promoting the initiative’s goals. 

Key innovations have included the creation of a talent marketplace by organising careers fairs, bringing together industry representatives and potential candidates in a common forum.

Learning journeys

The cornerstone of ETHRAA's success is the development of 22 critical learning journeys, tailored to specific roles in banking and insurance. This ensures that UAE Nationals receive targeted professional training and development opportunities in these sectors. 

The collaboration agreements with global partners for project training and development have demonstrated a commitment to excellence and the adoption of international best practices, ensuring that Emirati professionals are competitive on a worldwide scale. The inclusion of international professional qualifications and the high pass rates achieved in various phases of the programme have also highlighted a commitment to global standards and the readiness of Emirati talent to compete on an international level. 

Dr Allen Baby, Acting Chief Learning Officer of EIF spearheaded the learning design of ETHRAA. He explains that; "by creating a three-phased learning journey which had a foundation, specialisation and professional certification phase along with on-the-job training, learning visits, masterclasses, e-learning content, learning app and events, the learners, who were straight out of college, were given the knowledge, skills and aptitude to understand and explore a career in a specialist domain. Professional certifications that the candidates work towards in ETHRAA are typically taken by professionals after 5-10 years of work experience. It's therefore not just a training programme, but a talent and career acceleration initiative."

ETHRAA’s learning journeys were enriched by the designation of a personal mentor to each learner. Meeting at least once a month, the mentors – all them experts in their respective domains - gave the learners independent careers advice and helped them understand relevant opportunities in their field. The learners also had access to a mobile app offering an extensive library of invaluable micro learning courses.

Reporting and dashboards

The initiative sets clear and specific Emiratisation targets for critical roles, CXOs and committee members within the banking and insurance sectors. These targets provide a roadmap for ETHRAA's success, and align with broader national goals. The programme places a strong emphasis on measuring and reporting progress. It provides detailed metrics and outcomes, including recruitment achievements, pass rates and performance in specific skill areas. This data-driven approach allows for continuous improvement and transparency in the initiative's outcomes.

What outcomes have been achieved so far?

In line with specific, measurable objectives, the following outcomes have been achieved:

  • Rapid upskilling of national talent: In one year, ETHRAA added 1,000 professionals in critical roles when it had previously taken 50 years to add 2,500. This has addressed the long-standing industry problem of lack of candidates for specialised jobs in finance, by hiring and qualifying 1,000 suitable candidates for critical positions in this sector. 
  • Increase in obtainment of international professional qualifications: Over 83% of students have achieved a professional qualification. In a survey of line managers conducted by EIF on the knowledge and skills level of ETHRAA learners compared to other sources of recruitment, 98% of respondents found them to be ‘good and above’. This meets the core objective of ensuring that UAE National talent joining specialist roles are well qualified and skilled. The benchmark was set as the international professional qualification for 20 areas, for example, ACAMS for Compliance, CFA for Investment, CIPD for HR, CIA for Audit.
  • Reduction in graduate attrition rates: A long-standing problem for the finance industry has been the high attrition rate among new graduate employees, with 15%+ attrition among the larger banks. ETHRAA made a significant positive difference in this area. Fewer than 2% of candidates dropped out of the ETHRAA programme, mainly due to health reasons, therefore ensuring that the industry witnessed a major drop in sector-wide attrition. This reduction was also driven by the future potential opportunities for accelerated learning and professional progression, with ETHRAA graduates having launched their careers with skills and qualifications in specialist domains. 

Noura Al Blooshi, General Manager of EIF, says: "These metrics and outcomes demonstrate the multi-dimensional holistic success of ETHRAA. The initiative has exceeded recruitment targets, provided training and development opportunities and achieved high pass rates among learners. This has helped to fill critical positions in the banking and insurance sectors, contributing to talent development in the UAE and the fulfilment of Emiratisation goals. The programme’s performance, especially in key areas like compliance, credit, cybersecurity and fintech, surpasses industry benchmarks, highlighting its excellence in talent development and education. EIF is proud to have launched the successful corporate careers of the future leaders of the UAE financial sector."

Key learnings

  • Stay aligned with industry standards - this is key to surpassing global benchmarks.
  • Ensure sustainability, by consistently researching and enhancing programmes, elevating industry standards and actively incorporating feedback.
  • Adopt a holistic nature to learning design.
  • Engage continuously with the learners and the industry.
  • Partner with educational institutions and industry experts to develop tailored training programmes.
  • Achieve high recognition and awareness through effective communication, marketing strategies and careers fairs.
  • Offer specialised training programmes for critical roles to candidates and incentives for employers.


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