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Two thirds of ME bank CEO’s face axe over cyber security

UAE – Two thirds of bank chief executives (71%) in the Middle East could be at risk of losing their jobs because they are not managing cyber security risks effectively, according to a new report.

Research shows that only 29% of Middle East banks with assets of more than US $10 billion have a chief information security officer (CISO) reporting directly to the chief executive – a key sign among cyber security professionals that an organisation is taking and managing these threats seriously. More than a third (35%) of CISOs have no direct reporting line to any C-level executives.

The research was carried out by Metin Mitchell & Co into the 49 qualifying banks in nine countries. No country was an outstanding performer; but one of the highest performers was the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at 38%.

Metin Mitchell, founder of the Dubai-based firm which specialises in executive search for Middle East financial services, said: “If cyber security experts are to have any impact in a bank they need more than technical skills – they also need a strong voice and business skills. They must be able to communicate effectively to the CEO and the board on the risks to both the business and shareholder values.

“They must also have the required budget and the ability to influence decision-making to mitigate those risks. How many of today’s CISOs in the Middle East have the skills to do that? And more importantly, how many are empowered to do that and drive forward a multi disciplined approach to cyber security? How well a CEO prepares, and how well their team deals with a cyber attack, will all determine whether a CEO keeps their job when the bank is attacked.”

Raef Meeuwisse – ISACA governance expert, author and cyber security adviser to Metin Mitchell & Co – explained the importance of CISOs reporting to the chief executive: “There is a shortage of cyber security skills. In a market competing for resources, the best talent goes to the organizations that look most appealing to work for. Security staff are not like normal people.

“They are not interested in your sector, turnover or profit. They want to know if your organization has the security fundamentals in place. Are you likely to still be operating in a few years time? One of the easiest ways to check is simply to ask, is your CISO reporting to the main board – and in the case of financial services this would be to the chief executive.”

Metin Mitchell & Co has launched a specialist cyber security service to recruit senior cyber security talent and offer advice.