The SEC, which combines some of the functions of the Financial Services Authority of the UK and the Securities & Exchange Commission of the US, will have sweeping powers to regulate joint stock banks, corporations quoted on the Saudi Arabian stock exchange, which will be called the Saudi Securities Exchange (SSE), and primary and secondary market operations. It will also monitor applications to set up new wholesale banking and capital market institutions and local rating agencies.

Al-Suhaimi, a career civil servant, joined Sama as director-general for banking control in 1984 and has been SAMA deputy governor since 1989. This places him third in the central bank’s pecking order after the governor, Hamad al-Sayyari, who this autumn celebrates the 20th anniversary of his appointment to the post, and the vice-governor, Mohammad al-Jassar. Al-Suhaimi is also a member of the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (Sagia), the foreign investment promotion and regulation body created in 2000.

Al-Suhaimi’s status has grown as the result of a series of successful initiatives. He is widely credited as the moving force behind the emergence of the Saudi Arabian stock exchange in the past decade. The exchange has been hived off from SAMA by the CML and has its own board of directors. The depository has also been separately incorporated.

The CML envisages a swift timetable of activities leading to the legislation becoming effective early in 2004. The five members of the SEC, including the chairman, are due to be named on 20 November. The rules governing the operation of the SEC are to be published on 25 January and the new system is due to go live on 25 February.

Bankers say the test of the new regulations will be the speed at which applications for investment banking licences are processed. Speaking at the MEED Capital Markets conference in Dubai in late September, Al-Suhaimi said that the SEC aims to secure an agreement with the Commerce Ministry, which at present has the final say in approving the establishment of locally-registered companies and banks, that will accelerate the registration process for new institutions (MEED 3:10:03).

n Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency deputy governor Jammaz al-Suhaimi will address MEED’s Investing in Saudi Arabia conference at One Whitehall Place, London on 1-2 December. For further information contact: MEED Conferences. Tel: 00 44 207 505 6044. Fax: 00 44 207 505 6002. Email: meedconferences@emap.com