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I lead the financial services practice in the MENA region. That covers banks, financial technology companies, and public sector financial institutions, such as ministries of finance and central banks.
In a dynamic market, I hope my focus and honesty gain our clients’ trust, because I relish seeing programs my team has worked on coming to fruition—from regulations in digital banking to launching new services and reforming fiscal management programs.
Forming strategy to have actual impact is important to me. So is balance. So when the day is done, I lace up my running shoes.
Senior Vice President Lutfi Zakhour works out of our Abu Dhabi office, running our financial services practice in the Middle East and North Africa. His primary focus is on leading strategy and digital transformation projects for retail banks, finance ministries, and financial technology companies.
He advises executives at key public and private sector entities on strategy and implementation.
Lutfi is an expert in strategy, digital transformation, start-up and scale-up programs, governance, and more. Before joining the firm in 2003, he was a hardware engineer at Sapphire Communications.
He has a B.Eng. in electrical engineering from McGill University and an M.B.A. from INSEAD.
What excites you about working in financial services? It’s an extremely dynamic industry—whether you’re talking about banking and the advent of digital that’s changing all the time, or the financial technology that holds a lot of promise for banks and average consumers. It’s amazing to be part of that, to be influencing the evolution of these trends.
What do you see as the biggest untapped opportunities for your clients? Digital. Definitely. Embracing digital. Right now, a lot of banks aren’t being aggressive enough in terms of the investments they make in digital and technology. Many of them, just because they have an app, think they’ve gone digital. But they really have to infuse digital thinking throughout the organization.
How do you help your clients prepare for the future? By not just telling them what they want to hear. Oftentimes it’s pushing them to accept that in some areas of the organization they might not be doing as well as they should be. And by giving them programs that are instrumental. Way too often I see strategy work that is too aggressive and too ambitious. It sounds good on paper. It sounds good in a boardroom. Maybe the CEO signed off on it. Maybe the CEO even pushed for it. But it’s often the time when I meet with the CEO to talk about the organization’s capabilities on the ground, and how that might support or limit the plans. That’s when you have a good, solid discussion with a client, and they realize you’ve gotten to know the organization very well and that you’re direct and honest in terms of what’s possible and what’s a stretch. That’s when I feel the most effective.
What’s your best tip for managing and motivating people? Make sure it’s not all work, work, work. Encourage people to get their work done during the day properly, and then the rest of the evening is really for them.
What mentorship advice would you give someone who just took on a new leadership role? Make sure your team is motivated, challenged, supported, and given enough space to grow.
What is the best business advice you’ve received in your career? Making sure I have my own thing to look forward to at the end of the day. Even though it’s not directly business advice, it impacts my business tremendously.
What’s one thing you always have with you? My running shoes.
You’re a runner? I’m a triathlete. I pretend to be a triathlete.
Have you competed? Yeah. I’ve completed a few Ironmans. But sometimes I feel like I’m pretending. Sometimes I’m not sure I could ever do that again. I try.
What’s something that not many people know about? It’s typically that I’m a triathlete because I don’t look the part at all. I enjoy my food and drink quite a bit!