No sooner had Sarah Suhaimi been appointed to the board of Directors of the Saudi Stock Exchange Tadawul, and Rania Mahmoud Nashar was made CEO of Samba Financial Group, becoming the first woman to be an Executive manager of a Saudi Bank.
The appointment of women to lead financial sector positions continued hours later, when the Arab National Bank confirmed its intention to hire Latifah Sabhan as the finance director for the bank.
Dr. Ashraf Jamal El-Din, executive director of the Institute for Corporate Governance at the Dubai International Financial Center, said: “Saudi Arabia is a pioneer in supporting women economically. There is no doubt that the future will witness many changes in terms of the financial performance of the market and the improvement in decision-making, which is driven largely by women’s investments several years ago.”
He added: “The fact that a woman was elected in Tadawul is a clear indication of the qualifications of women to fill leadership positions. Indeed, this is an important step towards a change in the public and private sector alike, and it will improve the rank of Arab countries in the field of women’s empowerment. We must start compiling annual statistics to follow and sustain the representation of women.”
According to a statement by the Al Masah Capital Management, the value of the assets of small and medium businesses run by women entrepreneurs in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) amounts to $ 385 billion. The report noted that Gulf women are more likely to hold substantial roles in relation to the banking sector and the financial and investment sector by up to 18 percent.
The Saudi newspaper Al Sharq previously quoted Lamia Ajaji, director of the Aim High Foundation which organizes exhibitions and conferences. She said women’s investments in Saudi Arabia exceeded 60 billion riyals, and added the rate of Saudi women investments was almost 21 percent of the total investment in the private sector. She added that businesswomen in the Kingdom possess a rough 50 billion riyals, or 75 percent of the Saudi banks’ savings.
Women and the banking sector
According to the statement issued by Samba, Nashar is one of the national competences in the banking sector, and has all the administrative and technical capabilities to manage the Samba financial group in the coming period. She has 20 years’ experience in the banking sector, during which she assumed a number of leadership positions in the group.
The New CEO has a bachelor’s degree with first class honors in computer sciences and information technology from King Saud University. She has completed a leadership development program from the Darden School of Business at Virginia University. She has a degree in governance, risk management and commitment in cooperation with the business school at George Washington University. She was the first Saudi woman to get certification from the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists.
As for Sarah Al-Suhaimi, she serves as a chief executive officer of NCBC and a member of the board of directors since March 2014. Suhaimi previously served as an executive director and head of the investment department at Jadwa which she acceded in May 2007 as a senior manager.
It is noteworthy that women leading Saudi banks are not a new phenomenon. Dr. Nahed Taher served as the director of an investment bank. She is the first Saudi woman to operate as an economic adviser to the National Commercial Bank and has a master’s degree in international economics from King Abdul-Aziz University in Jeddah and a PhD in Financial Economics. She was a lecturer in the department of economics at the university where she wrote many financial studies on the Saudi market and the National Commercial Bank and represented it in foreign conferences.