Standard Chartered Opens First Branch in Deal-Rich Saudi

Standard Chartered Plc has opened its first branch in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom attracts Western banks keen to cash in on the country’s economic reform.

The London-based bank began operations from its Riyadh branch in the last couple of weeks with a 35-strong team, which is expanding to more than 50 over the next few years, according to Yazaid Al Salloom, the head of the business. This includes about 10 staff already who were already working in capital markets.

The move widens the services Standard Chartered can offer in the country, after receiving a license to operate there in 2019. Al Salloom said in an interview that senior executives at Standard Chartered wanted to pursue a presence in the energy-rich Middle Eastern country despite the ongoing disruption of the global pandemic.

“Our view is, and this came straight from the top, is that this should have been done years ago,” said Al Salloom, who was appointed last August. “There’s no better time than now.”

The kingdom’s Tadawul All Share Index this week topped 11,000 for the first time since September 2014, after rising 27% so far this year on a strengthening oil price, domestic credit growth and plans to revive the economy after the pandemic.

Banks including HSBC Holdings Plc and Natixis SA have explored ways to grow in Saudi after the record-breaking initial public offering of Aramco and its huge bond sales highlighted the kingdom’s growing importance as a hub for deals.

Financing is also needed for the multibillion-dollar development of the new city of Neom, which is a key plank of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s efforts to expand the economy beyond the oil industry, known as Vision 2030.

“You have markets that have a lot more financing needs,” said Al Saloom. “The Saudi economy is beyond healthy.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.