Artificial Intelligence (AI)
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Dubai: Artificial Intelligence (AI) was cited as the biggest technology challenge faced by senior executives across various industries worldwide, according to the latest study by American Express.

The study, which surveyed 901 chief financial officers and other finance executives, showed that against this backdrop, more companies are now investing in such technologies. Around 66 per cent of those surveyed said AI was a major area of focus for their company (compared to 40 per cent in 2018).

Other technology challenges they cited were financial technology applications, the Internet of Things, robotics and automation, Blockchain, alternative energy sources and autonomous vehicles.

The executives surveyed by American Express included 180 who are based in the Middle East across countries that include the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Bahrain. Middle East-based executives also reported other broader challenges that make them less optimistic about economic outlook than they were a year earlier. These include lower oil prices and slower economic growth.

Their sentiment are in line, however, with global counterparts who also reported lower optimism on outlook across Europe, North America, South America and Asia.

But that is not to say finance executives are reporting a bearish sentiment.

According to the survey, 72 per cent of senior executives still expect to see some economic growth, compared to 92 per cent in 2018. Another 10 per cent of executives from the Middle East foresee a modest or substantial contraction in 2019.

“Despite operating in unsettled times, senior finance executives across the region are concentrating their day-to-day business, but keeping an eye on the future,” said Mazin Khoury, chief executive officer of American Express Middle East.

“While they balance spending to drive topline growth with profitability, they’re pressing ahead with expansion plans, which include pursuing foreign trade opportunities, hiring, and investing in next-generation technology.”

Other findings from the survey by American Express include hiring plans and staff strategies, with more and more companies now focusing on benefits rather than pay to hire and retain staff.

Finance executives said that while they expect to see an increase in headcount at their companies, that increase won’t be accompanied by strong increases in employee compensation. Instead, companies will be focusing on expanding career development opportunities and improving working environments through reconfigured office spaces, increased amenities, and allowing flexible working arrangements.