(For other news from the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit,
* Banks in Saudi Arabia struggling to find qualified locals
* Situation might improve after education system revamp
By Asma Alsharif
RIYADH, Oct 20 Foreign banks are flocking to
Saudi Arabia as the emirate opens up its bourse and rolls out
the world's biggest stimulus package but they face challenges
recruiting, training and ultimately retaining local staff.
Speakers at the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit this
week said the Gulf Arab state offers plenty of opportunities for
banks and fund managers after the government launched a spending
plan of $400 billion and opens up its financial sector.
But finding and developing talent is a challenge, especially
in management positions or jobs that need specialist or
technical skills such as Islamic banking.
"If you look at the rate the financial services have grown
there are probably enough people to cover the ten (Saudi) banks
historically... the pool of talent beyond that isn't there,"
said Paul Gamble, head of research at Jadwa Investment. "It
reflects the growth of the financial services sector."
Many Saudis work in retail banking but not so many are
investment bankers or senior managers, said John Sfakianakis,
chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi.
"There are job entrants but there is a shortage of senior
managers," he said.
Adding to the woes, the government has set quotas for the
number of nationals private firms must hire but the state
education system fails to meet job market demands.
Many firms develop trainee programs to lure local candidates
and offer them individual career plans and coaching. But
retention is an issue as banks compete for a small pool of young
talented Saudis who have returned from scholarships abroad.
"We hired staff and taught them but after one year they
would move to other companies," said Hesham Abu-Jamee, chief
investment officer at Bakheet Investment Group.
The Saudi unit of Dubai-based investment firm Shuaa Capital
SHUA.DU has increased staff by 20 percent to 50.
"Good talent comes at a price," said Omar al-Jaroudi, Shuaa
"We have developed several retention programs for our staff
starting from training to financial compensation to career
planning... this will help people think twice before moving,"
One advantage is that in Saudi Arabia, one of the world's
most conservative countries and birthplace of Islam, many locals
do not want to move abroad but stay with their families.
"They like to travel but don't necessarily want to go
through international careers," said Sfakianakis.
Haroon Nisar, senior manager for Islamic banking at Riyadh's
Saudi Hollandi Bank 1040.SE, cited a more compelling tactic.
"They just warn that you give them a decent vision... which
way their future is heading so they will probably stay for a
long time with you.
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Mike Nesbit)