Roland Berger managing partner Rene Seyger reflects on new role in Middle East

19 December 2018 6 min. read
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Rene Seyger, the founding partner of global management consultancy Roland Berger’s Dutch office, recently took on the role of Managing Partner for the firm in the Middle East. Seyger talks to about his transition to the region and visions for growth.

Announced as the new Managing Partner for Roland Berger’s Middle East practice in November, Rene Seyger has been with the global management consultancy for the past 17 years, co-founding the firm’s Dutch branch in 2002. Before joining Roland Berger, Seyger served for a further seven years with Arthur D. Little, and kicked off his career with a four-year stint at Dutch consultancy Coopers & Lybrand.

Meanwhile, during his time with the firm, Roland Berger has set its sights on the Middle East, opening a permanent office twelve years ago in Bahrain followed soon after by outlets launched in Lebanon and Qatar and then Dubai in 2011.

Roland Berger Middle East managing partner Rene Seyger reflects on new role

“I have strong ambitions for Roland Berger in the Middle-East,” stated the then newly elected CEO Charles-Edouard Bouée in 2014, as the firm set out on a strategic path to triple in size in the coming years.

Now, as an ‘integral’ part of the firm’s growth strategy in the region, Seyger, has taken the reins at Roland Berger in the Middle East, bringing years of leadership experience and special expertise in the rapidly evolving automotive & transport and healthcare sectors. Seyger talks to on his personal transition to the region, the positioning of Roland Berger locally, and his short-term visions and goals for the firm in the Middle East, including new offices slated for Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.

Firstly, how have your first six months been in the Middle East after being based in the Netherlands for the bulk of your career?

Some of my colleagues did tell me about the hot Dubai summer, but there was no amount of warning that could have prepared me for the scorching hot sun awaiting me when I landed. But that only added to my overall excitement as part of my transition from Europe to the Middle East region. I find the local culture so intriguing and have even picked up on social cues and learned to replace my ‘Hi & Hello’ with ‘Assalam Alaikum’ (hello in Arabic). The hospitality and warmth in the region are palpable and has really made the move for me much easier; six months and I truly feel at home.

And your new working environment?

Here in the region since 2006, Roland Berger has firmly established its credentials. The team I have been tasked to oversee exhibits the highest levels of professionalism, which has made my assimilation comfortable. The beauty of working in such a vibrant market is that there is no slow period, not even this summer when I first arrived and assumed it would be quieter than usual. It is gratifying to be in a leadership role with so many interesting things happening across the region.

On to business – what are Roland Berger’s growth plans for the Middle East?

Roland Berger has been in the region for the past 12 years, and now it’s all geared up to increase its presence. The wheels are in motion to open new offices in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. The GCC economy is in a different state compared to that of Europe or the United States. Although the region is facing some pressing fiscal issues due to the fall in global oil prices, they remain steadfast in their pursuit of success and determined to achieve their vision for the future.

Saudi Arabia, for example, has already chalked out their plans for Vision 2030. This has pushed the regional economy into an upward trend. Roland Berger has seen this boost and is ready to position itself as a key player in the field. The firm is trying to focus its efforts towards the Kingdom, where we hope to achieve a much stronger foothold. We are very keen to establish a more active presence in Saudi Arabia as they move towards their vision.

What will be your personal focus?

My primary focus is on content. Roland Berger has a strong portfolio of international publications, which are being introduced to the region that I would like to leverage, to foster the creation of more regional content and relevant studies. My other key area of focus is entrepreneurship. In line with the general trend in Dubai, Roland Berger is shifting its gaze towards the future and adopting youth-oriented strategies. We are achieving this vision through recruiting and retaining local talent. For this purpose, Roland Berger has partnered with organisations such as The Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MiSK) and SIRC in Saudi Arabia and the crown prince scholarship programmes in Bahrain.

What are they key industries for Roland Berger in the Middle East?

Roland Berger is a global firm and as such it caters to several industries. Our focus remains on addressing some pressing issues. Answering pertinent questions such as, how to become more digitised? How to remove friction from the system? How to diversify production into services? How to prepare for the next generation? The concept of city as a service is an exciting one for Roland Berger. In accordance with this theme, the key industries that the firm participates in the region are Financial Services, Transportation and automotive, Hospitality, Energy, and AI/Digital.

You have a long history of expertise in the automotive and transportation sector and state a passion for new mobility concepts – among Roland Berger’s key areas of focus worldwide. How is the Middle East office enabling growth and transformation in this space?

Speaking of growing industries, transportation and automotive industries are increasingly diverging under the umbrella of Mobility and the burning question in this regard is; do we spend money on infrastructure or do we sell services as assets? Roland Berger has helped several big global players land in the region. We have worked on building big consortiums and facilitated in fostering dialogues with the government in a 2.0 manner around building regulation for autonomous vehicles. For this purpose, Roland Berger has brought in expert teams which focus on financial, legislative and traditional angles.

Lastly, how do you see the company changing over the coming year, and what do you see as your role in that change?

Having been in consulting for 30 years, I firmly believe in the importance of a team consisting of industrial experts and market specialists who make it possible for the firm to achieve its targets. Roland Berger has a strong track record and the time is now to give our work more recognition and traction. I would like to tangibly contribute by ensuring that we have increased visibility of teams globally and locally. I want to leverage the international networks through knowledge exchange, and, by bringing in the regional talent, increase the firm's credibility with the clients. We are always looking to recruit industry experts from both local and global platforms.