When The Arab Academy for Management, Banking & Financial Sciences (AAMBFS) began looking for a business partner to help prepare a new generation of students for the increasing role analytics plays in the finance and business sectors, they took a very non-academic approach.

Unlike traditional university programs focused on a broad, well-rounded education, the academy looks for partners who can provide practical business skills and experience comparable to what is in high demand in the market.

“We are very active and able to change our strategy according to the market and industry,” said Mostafa Hodieb, President of the AAMBFS and member of the board of trustees. “More than 80% of our courses are taught by field experts rather than tenured professors, so we’re learning by solving real business problems.”

The academy’s business school is creating 10 Centers of Excellence (CoE), including Risk Management, Marketing Intelligence, and Disruption and Experience Curiosity to mirror market demand for organizational strength and talent. Each involves a cohort of targeted business partners, customers in the industry, technical experts and students to address relevant real-world issues. The idea goes beyond earning course credit and encourages practical experience and problem-solving similar to that in an organizational setting.

When Hodieb began talking about the CoEs and possibilities of partnering with SAS with Ahmed Kamal, Global Program Manager and Head of Middle East Academic Program, and Riad Gydien, Executive Vice President and Chief Sales Officer, EMEA and AP, he quickly recognized the potential of joining forces with an analytics leader that not only offers the most advanced software and expertise, but also shares a common desire for societal transformation and analytics that help humanity.

“We have a mission to improve society – to see that companies, institutions, governments are doing a better job,” said Hodieb. “We are interested in data for good.”

Kamal added, “We are trying to create a partner ecosystem, pulling together industry partners, academic partners, entrepreneurs and other segments, moving to ‘experience as a service.’” He noted that by 2024 the AAMBFS – with the help of its partners – wants to be known as a “market maker” in the Middle East and Africa.

After learning more about SAS’ support of academic initiatives and visits with analytics leads at AAMBFS, Oklahoma State University, North West University, and North Carolina State University, Hodieb was convinced SAS was the right fit for their program.

“I think we have a partner!” he recalled saying.

Making it official

SAS is in good company as an AAMBFS partner, alongside The World Bank, European Banking & Financial Services Training Association, American Bankers Association, Union of Arab Banks and other distinguished organizations. One of the most recent comprehensive agreements names Harvard Business School a strategic partner, the first of its kind for Harvard.

Hodieb, Kamal, Gydien and Murray deVilliers, Senior Manager, Global Academic Programs, met at SAS world headquarters on June 2 to sign SAS’ agreement and discuss the academy program’s curriculum and transition from SPSS to SAS.

“We needed a flagship program in the Middle East, and this is the culmination of that,” said deVilliers.

He and the visiting group were joined by several SAS experts during their two-day visit, including Sean O’Brien, Senior Vice President, Global Customer Success, who talked about the three-part partnership: industry, educational institution, and the content and software SAS will contribute. “I think we have the right foundation,” he said. O’Brien commended Hodieb on the Academy’s modern approach to learning, putting professional certification on par with university degrees.

The partnership introduces AAMBFS students and faculty to the latest versions of SAS® software and pairs them with tech experts to learn new ways of using analytics. “We’ll need a lot of help from SAS, including nominating some of your customers to help in the School of Business,” said Hodieb.

In addition to boosting the experience level of the talent pool in the 22 countries where the Academy operates, including senior-level and executive talent candidates the Academy is often asked to help identify, the program also helps SAS identify emerging issues and challenges that drive software development, marketing and customer success programs.

“It’s what we would call a no-brainer,” said Gydien. “We’re excited to be a catalyst in business and in government in the Middle East.”

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