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CFA Centers Its Middle East Growth Around Saudi Arabia



CFA Centers Its Middle East Growth Around Saudi Arabia

The CFA Institute is seeking to increase the number of its members in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia being a primary target due to the country’s efforts to diversify its investment industry and open up its financial markets.

According to Marg Franklin, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, the non-profit educational organization for chartered financial analysts hopes to grow the pool of candidates by 20% annually and double the number of members in the kingdom to roughly 1,000 over the next three years.

Approximately 1,800 candidates nationwide intend to take the CFA exam this year.

The impetus stems from Saudi Arabia’s financial system reforms, which aim to develop the capital markets, support more startups, and progress the banking and insurance sectors.

As part of its attempts to diversify its revenue sources away from oil, the kingdom hopes to do this by luring more foreign investment and encouraging local workers to pursue careers in finance.

“Most of this is really around trajectory and direction,” Franklin said at the CFA Institute’s Middle East Investment Conference in Riyadh on Sunday.

“When you look at the last five years, the ambition is clear,” she said. “It’s a young population and they know the most important levers that will help it to become a more diversified, resilient economy and much bigger global player.”

According to Franklin, the CFA is thinking about adding more Arabic certifications and looking into ways to include more training on Islamic finance, an area of high demand.

Franklin noted that Saudi Arabia presents a special opportunity because the country wants to increase the number of women in the workforce as part of its Vision 2030 agenda.

“As they are beginning efforts to have a more inclusive workplace with regards to the type of talent and the inclusion of more women, we think there’s quite a bit we can do,” Franklin said.

According to Fahad Kordi, head of investments and structured finance at Banque Saudi Fransi and member of the CFA board, there are currently 520 CFA members in Saudi Arabia, with approximately 12% of them being female. In 2022, that was only 8%.

Before the kingdom launched significant measures in 2017 and 2018 to advance women’s rights, such as permitting women to drive and start businesses without the approval of a male guardian, the percentage of female members was almost nonexistent. In 2003, Khlood A. Aldukheil, who is currently the CEO of Erteqa Financial Company, became the first female CFA member in Saudi Arabia. Until 2015, she was the only woman from the country to hold the certification.

Regarding the Middle East, the CFA declined to provide specific pass rates for its exams; however, in November, 44% of candidates worldwide passed the Level II exam. 35% or so completed Level I. Both rates are lower than the average for the previous 10 years.

A memorandum of understanding to cooperate on professional development in the finance industry was also signed on Sunday by the CFA societies of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

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