CFA Society Saudi Arabia: A National Transformation

I was privileged recently to be a part of the CFA Society Saudi Arabia’s Investment Research Challenge, which included three teams (including one all-female group) from universities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Being a long-standing CFA charterholder with decades of professional and academic experience, I acted as a grader for the written reports. These were all written to a high standard, so the competition was very close.

I also had the opportunity to observe the three teams in action when they presented their equity investment recommendations on a Saudi listed firm to a panel of three distinguished local judges who were well versed in the industry. Again, I was highly impressed by the knowledge and enthusiasm expressed by each of the teams in presenting their findings in a very professional and compelling manner. The vote must have been very close, but the team from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Mining came out on top. They went on to participate in the regional EMEA and global finals in Prague, held April 26-28, 2017. Although they didn’t win, we know they represented their region proudly and well!

A Vision for the Future

What made a distinct impression on me was the dedication, commitment, and technical knowledge displayed by these local students, who worked closely with their academic and industry mentors in putting together very thorough and reasoned presentations within a relatively short timeframe, especially given all their other work and study constraints. This kind of effort seems to me symptomatic of a much needed, fundamental social and economic change ongoing in KSA, driven in part by the government’s National Transformation Program (NTP) and the Saudi Vision 2030.

A key pillar of this vision is the country’s aspiration to become a globally competitive economy in order to stimulate a currently sluggish domestic economy and inefficient public sector and to diversify the nation’s revenues, long reliant on hydrocarbon production and expatriate expertise. There are plans, for instance, to transform the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund into the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund (already commanding trillions of US dollars in assets).  Such ambitious targets will necessitate further intensified training efforts and investment in education, where organizations such as the CFA Institute and the local society can play a key role.  

The recent CFA Charter Awards ceremony in KSA’s capital of Riyadh, which I also had the privilege of attending, and where more than a score of new charters were awarded, including a substantial proportion of females, is also testimony to this focus on progressiveness. Given the talent and drive exhibited by this sample of a new generation of professionals, the nation seems to be showing progress toward reaching the lofty goals enshrined in its long-term vision.


About the Author

Edward Bace, CFA, is a finance professional specializing in training and consulting. He has extensive experience in finance, credit, and equity analysis, having worked for international financial and educational institutions including S&P, Lehman Brothers, CFA Institute, and Middlesex University London. He is currently advising on banking and finance at Watan First Institute, a training and consultancy firm based in Riyadh, KSA. In addition to the CFA Charter, he possesses the MCSI and PGCHE qualifications, a finance MBA from NYU, and a PhD from the University of Michigan.

Edward Bace