Sarah Al Suhaimi to Become the First Woman to Head Saudi Arabia's Stock Exchange

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  • Appointment is significant for country where women can’t drive
  • Al Suhaimi is also expected to stay on as CEO of NCB Capital

NCB Capital Co. Chief Executive Officer Sarah Al Suhaimi will become the first woman to chair Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange, the largest bourse in the Middle East.

Al Suhaimi was appointed chairwoman of the Tadawul, replacing Khalid Al Rabiah, the exchange said in a statement on Thursday. She is expected to keep her position at NCB Capital, the investment banking unit of National Commercial Bank, a person familiar with the appointment said. Al Suhaimi was the first female head of a Saudi investment bank when she assumed the role in 2014.

Al Suhaimi’s appointment is significant for Saudi Arabia where the female unemployment rate is more than 34 percent and women aren’t allowed to drive. Women also need a guardian’s consent to travel outside the country or marry. Change is starting to happen with the number of working women jumping 50 percent between 2010 and 2015, and more Saudi women entering male-dominated fields such as banking and engineering.

Before joining NCB Capital, Al Suhaimi was chief investment officer at Jadwa Investment and a senior portfolio manager at Samba Financial Group. Her father, Jammaz Al Suhaimi, was the head of the Capital Market Authority, the market regulator, until 2006.

The kingdom’s $439 billion stock exchange, which opened to foreigners in 2015, is seeking to attract more overseas investment as part of the country’s plans to diversify the economy away from oil. It’s working with index provider MSCI Inc. to be reclassified as an emerging market in the hope of triggering billions of dollars of inflows, Tadawul CEO Khalid Al Hussan told Bloomberg in January.