(Updates with public statement by bank)
By David French
DUBAI, March 4 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia’s NCB Capital has appointed Sarah Al-Suhaimi as its chief executive, the investment bank said on Tuesday, the first time a woman has been named to head an investment bank in the conservative kingdom.
Suhaimi, previously head of asset management and chief investment officer at Jadwa Investment in Saudi Arabia, replaces Tariq Linjawi, who was acting chief executive. The appointment still needs approval by Saudi financial regulators.
NCB Capital, with about $12 billion of assets under management, is a unit of National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabia’s largest bank.
Saudi Arabia is often criticised by human rights groups for its treatment of women; under the kingdom’s strict guardianship rules, women must be accompanied by a male relative when in public, are banned from driving and must seek approval to open a bank account or travel overseas.
But in the business world, women are gradually coming to enjoy greater opportunities, partly because of heavy government spending on women’s education including state-funded scholarships to foreign universities.
Some women have risen to key roles in financial institutions, such as Lama Ghazzaoui, who is chief accountant at National Commercial Bank.
Suhaimi, whose father Jammaz was head of the country’s Capital Market Authority between 2004 and 2006 and is currently chairman of Bahrain-based Gulf International Bank, is highly regarded in the Saudi financial markets.
“She is considered a rising star,” said a banker who has worked with her.
National Commercial Bank is expected to sell a 15 percent stake to the public later this year, the kingdom’s finance minister said last week. It will be one of the most anticipated initial public offers on the Saudi bourse in years. (Editing by Andrew Torchia)