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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Saudi banking licence high on agenda for Standard Chartered

British lender in discussions to understand what procedures are necessary to operate in kingdom

Standard Chartered hopes to get into the kingdom's banking sector. Chris Helgren/Reuters
Standard Chartered hopes to get into the kingdom's banking sector. Chris Helgren/Reuters

The Standard Chartered chief executive Bill Winters said he is talking to regulators in Saudi Arabia to understand the requirements to win a banking licence, which could add another emerging market to more than 70 countries where the British bank does business.

"The ground rules for what is required for the banking licence” are “evolving, as are so many other things in Saudi right now," Mr Winters said on the sidelines of the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. "We continue to have conversations with the regulator to understand what the requirements are, and how we can best meet them, and can support the kingdom towards its 2030 vision."

The lender already has a licence from the kingdom’s Capital Markets Authority and is seeking to become more active in the oil-rich nation. Saudi Arabia, which is hosting a gathering of high-profile global finance and business figures this week, is overhauling its economy and issuing debt, and plans to list Aramco in what could be the largest-ever initial public offering.

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Only a handful of international banks, such as JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas, have licences to open branches in the kingdom. HSBC , Royal Bank of Scotland and Credit Agricole operate in the country through minority stakes in local lenders. Citigroup is considering seeking a banking licence.

Mr Winters said a session on foreign institutional investors he attended was “an eye opener on how quickly things are changing in Saudi, and tells us the role the international banks with deep local roots like us can play". Standard Chartered is looking for ways to deploy a "more substantial presence on the ground in Saudi Arabia", he said.

Standard Chartered, which has a big presence in the Arabian Gulf region, is looking to play an active role in cross-border payments and investments and wants a role in Saudi Arabian domestic capital markets, Mr Winters said.