MGM Resorts Ventures Beyond Gaming Universe for Talent in Branding, Digital Initiatives

Posted on: April 23, 2019, 10:02h. 

Last updated on: April 24, 2019, 07:40h.

MGM Resorts has gone to the outside to select Atif Rafiq — a pioneering chief digital officer — as its first president of commercial and growth.

Atif Rafiq, shown here in 2015 when he was chief digital officer at McDonald’s, was recently appointed to a similar position at MGM Resorts. (Image: Michael Learmonth/International Business Times)

The recent appointment comes as company leaders are looking for savings via technology and to improve customer experiences with new digital offerings. It is a sign, too, other resort casino operators may undertake similar efforts to remain competitive and attract investors.

High-Tech Experience

Rafiq has been a top executive at several US corporations as they push for promising innovations.

Most recently, he worked at Volvo Cars as Senior Vice President, Group IT and Chief Digital Officer. The auto company is now competing in the burgeoning market for self-driving cars and implementing connectivity solutions in vehicles.

Previously, he had a key role at McDonald’s as the company embarked on self-service kiosks and expanded the use of mobile apps for ordering meals and table service.

His efforts were a way to engage younger customers at the restaurants. His role at the fast food company also made him the first chief digital officer among Fortune 100 companies. Earlier, he worked at Amazon, Yahoo! and AOL.

At MGM, his new position will include responsibilities as lead commercial officer, including involvement with sales, marketing and strengthening of the brand.

“Atif is the right leader at the right time,” MGM CEO Jim Murren said in a company statement released earlier this month. “We conducted an exhaustive search knowing we needed to find someone with not only digital transformation experience, but also a business leader with proven ability to translate emerging consumer behavior into strategy and revenue growth.”

Multi-Year Plan

The position comes as the company implements priorities found in MGM 2020, the plan for data-driven, digital offerings that lead to growth while improving efficiency and lowering costs.

MGM Resorts also wants to cut its workforce by 2,100 positions by early next year. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in January that most of the layoffs will be “managers and above” though other jobs may be impacted. Implementation of automated technology to reduce the number of workers was considered prior to when the 2020 plan was unveiled.

Mostly through savings, company officials predict an increase in annual adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) by $200 million over the next two years, and an additional $100 million by the end of 2021.

MGM’s technology provides guests a personalized approach that meets their specific needs. It also improves the company’s digital interactions with customers to a level found at businesses known for their high-tech achievements.

In February, MGM Resorts launched its new mobile app, which can be used for making reservations, checking into the venue and as a digital key. It also provides concierge services for guests, such as giving information on nearby restaurants or shows.

“The building blocks of digitization … have been harnessed by companies like Airbnb, WeWork and Uber to revolutionize their spaces. We need to obsess over changing consumer behaviors within our sights, and use these same building blocks to grow in new ways,” Rafiq said in a company statement.

More and more, consumers gravitate toward experiences that entertain, delight, sustain, build treasured memories and create lasting connections. MGM has the assets, scale advantage and strong brand to grow and deepen its customer relationships taking aim at such opportunities.”