Lazard Ltd hired Sarah al-Suhaimi as chair of its financial advisory business in the Middle East and North Africa as the boutique investment bank looks to boost its operations in the region from a hub in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Suhaimi, who was named chair of the Saudi stock exchange in 2017, will also be chair of Lazard’s Saudi Arabia unit, the company said in a statement. In a career spanning over 20 years in the financial industry, she also served as the chief executive officer at SNB Capital and held various roles at Saudi investment bank Jadwa Investment.
“Building on our existing presence in the city, Riyadh is the natural location for our regional hub office, from which we will serve investment banking clients across the Middle East and North Africa,” said Peter Orszag, CEO of financial advisory at Lazard. “The appointment of Sarah as chair is the first step in strengthening our presence on the ground.”
Investment banks have been looking to hire in Saudi Arabia as the kingdom embarks on a plan to diversify its economy away from oil, selling off stakes in state-owned companies while investing in new industries.
The appointment follows Bloomberg News reporting last week that Lazard is set to hire Wassim al-Khatib, a former Citigroup Inc banker who played a key role in Saudi Aramco’s 2019 initial public offering, as CEO for the region.
Al-Suhaimi’s appointment is also a sign of women taking on a more prominent role in the Middle East’s biggest economy. Saudi Arabia has been gradually loosening restrictions on women as part of the government’s plan to get more nationals to work in the private sector.
Over the past few years, authorities have lifted a ban on female drivers and allowed them to travel without the permission of a male guardian.
Still, the rate of female unemployment is roughly four times that of male citizens.
The government appointed two women to senior positions in July. Shihana Alazzaz was named the first female deputy secretary-general of the Saudi cabinet, while Princess Haifa bint Mohamed al-Saud was appointed as deputy minister of tourism.