by Brian DeChesare Comments (68)

Investment Banking in Saudi Arabia: The Hottest and Most Overlooked Emerging Market in the World?

Investment Banking Saudi ArabiaWhat do you think of when you hear “emerging market”?

ChinaIndia… Russia… Brazil…

And then maybe Dubai, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia, and a couple others.

But Saudi Arabia is probably not at the top of your list.

That could be a big mistake, as we’ll find out in this wide-ranging interview with a reader who works in investment banking in Riyadh.

We’ll cover why it’s a great place to be right now, how the finance industry there works, how a social scene without models and bottles works, and whether you should head over there.

How It All Started

Q: Most people don’t start out planning to work in the finance industry in Saudi Arabia. Were you from the Middle East? How did all of this start?

A: I was born and raised in the UK, and went to university there. I did an internship in equity sales before moving into investment banking.

At the time, the market was good so it wasn’t quite as difficult to make it through investment banking interviews and win offers – I went to a large bank and planned to work in London for 2 years, and then spend my 3rd year abroad as part of the graduate program.

Q: So were you thinking of moving to Riyadh even back then? Where were you planning to go?

A: At first I was thinking about New York, Hong Kong, or Singapore – this was back at the peak of the bull market, and all of those seemed like good options.

Two years later, the sky had fallen and finance was completely different – and it seemed like those markets were now the worst ones to go into.

Around that time, my boss approached me to join his new team in Saudi Arabia – my bank wanted to focus on expansion into emerging markets, and they had asked my boss to lead our efforts there.

I didn’t know much about it at the time, but it seemed more promising than my other options, so I jumped on the opportunity.

Q: Ok, but wait a second here: you weren’t from the Middle East and I’m assuming you didn’t know Arabic. Was any of that a problem?

A: There were no language requirements – most business is conducted in English. Knowledge of Arabic helps, but it’s not required.

Since it’s an emerging market, they value people with strong technical skills from London and other finance hubs – they’d rather have someone from the West who had a strong grounding in finance vs. a local native speaker who didn’t know as much.

Moving to Saudi Arabia

Q: Interesting. So what’s the finance industry like in Saudi Arabia? I know nothing about it.

A: It’s very, very underdeveloped – which means that the growth potential is huge. Even though there’s a high per-capita income, there hasn’t been much of a finance market until recently.

Most deals are IPOs and M&A is still underdeveloped, though that’s starting to change.

Any banker coming from the US or Europe can quickly make a name for himself in this market, because it’s the equivalent of the Wild West right now.

Over the next few years there will be a surge in M&A activity as recently listed companies begin to consolidate, and ECM activity will continue to be strong.

Government intervention also helps – for example, there was a royal decree awhile back that ordered certain cement manufacturers and insurers to list over the next 2 years.

Q: Sounds like a good place to be. What about your clients – I’m guessing they’re mostly oil companies?

A: It’s certainly the biggest industry here – but there have been a lot of IPOs in the $100 million to $700 million range in recent years across many industries, including retail and transportation.

Beyond the oil companies, we also do a lot of work with local families.

In Saudi Arabia, around 20 families control the majority of major corporations and decide which companies to acquire and where to invest their assets.

Even though Dubai is close-by, they’d rather use advisors on the ground in Saudi Arabia so they can get day-to-day attention and build close relationships.

More so than other regions, all business in this country is relationship-based: once you get close to a certain family and build a relationship with them, it’s almost impossible for other banks to come in and steal their business away.

Once we start working with them, we advise on everything from acquisitions to IPOs to asset disposals – I even got to work on a Restructuring deal awhile back and worked directly with CEOs and other senior executives.

Q: Wow, so you’re getting a lot more responsibility than in London?

A: Exactly. Clients love the fact that I’m UK-educated and then worked in finance in London for a few years to learn the fundamentals really well.

A lot of times senior bankers and clients just let me run with ideas and don’t give me much guidance on what they want to see – it’s a huge change from other regions, where everything is micro-managed.

Much of what we do here is more “conceptual” than what you see in London or New York – since the industry is immature and since most businessmen speak English as a second language, they want simple explanations.

Just as one example, we don’t spend time scouring for dozens of non-recurring charges, adjusting Enterprise Value for capitalized leases and pensions, and being 100% scientific about everything because no one cares.

Q: This sounds much better than standard investment banking already. Since you get more senior exposure, can you move up quickly there?

A: Absolutely. Some of my friends have started as Associates and then moved up to the Director-level in only a few years – that would be impossible anywhere else, even in a frothy market.

The capital markets are growing faster than the domestic Saudi labor supply can support, and talent is scarce.

If you’re a Western-educated, Arabic-speaking investment banker there’s no better place to be.

Saudi Arabia vs. Dubai

Q: Let me stop you right there. You said “there’s no better place to be,” but what about Dubai? That’s more visible on most peoples’ radar vs. Saudi Arabia.

A: This is all my opinion, but Dubai would have been more promising back before they experienced massive growth (and then massive problems, and so on).

Most bankers in Dubai actually want to be involved with Saudi Arabian deals, but it’s a thorny political issue and Saudi companies prefer advisers in their own country.

The other issue is the cost of living – in Dubai it’s not much different from developed countries because of all the expats, but in Riyadh it’s incredibly cheap. I save over 70% of my pay even after accommodation and travel.

Q: Wow, you’ll have to tell me your secrets on how you pulled that one off. Even if you view Saudi Arabia as superior to Dubai, what about other regions in the Middle East? Is anything else “hot”?

A: There are a couple other promising places here – Bahrain, a tiny island country off our coast, has always been a hub for ex-pats and could also be good. Qatar is also promising, but it’s much smaller.

But these days most multi-national firms are choosing to go outside Dubai to establish a presence in the Middle East – for example, McKinsey is now setting up an office in Riyadh and they’re recruiting a lot of Saudi nationals rather than exclusively foreigners.

Life Without Models and Bottles

Q: Everything seems rosy so far. But let’s talk about the downsides of living in Saudi Arabia. You haven’t mentioned models and bottles yet – are there any?

A: No. Do not come here if you like going out, clubbing, and drinking.

Living in Riyadh only appeals to a certain type of banker – you have to like activities other than partying or you’ll have a miserable time here.

The social scene here is centered on “compounds” – residences for Westerners living in the country. Women can wear normal clothes there, there are no Saudi nationals, and you can drink alcohol.

Q: Wow. So what exactly do you do for fun in Saudi Arabia if drinking and clubbing are not options?

A: Mostly sports and outdoor activities – I play rugby, golf, and I’ve gone scuba diving here a lot as well. I’ve also traveled all around the Middle East, which is convenient because plane tickets to other countries are quite cheap.

Q: The social life sounds pretty surreal. What advice do you have for someone looking to work there?

A: Don’t even attempt to come here alone and figure things out – you can’t even get a tourist visa unless it’s during the pilgrimage or you’re on certain guided tours.

Everything needs to be done through your bank’s HR department – just make sure all your forms are in place and that your housing accommodations are set up before you get here, because it’s very, very tough to find housing by yourself.

The visa situation is also complicated because you need to get an exit visa to leave the country even if you have a work visa – and to make things even more fun, all the dates are according to the lunar calendar so you could easily end up with an expired visa.

As far as actually living here, I recommend starting out in a compound and building your social circle there before you move off to live in an apartment.

Q: What about family visits? Can relatives visit you at all?

A: Usually family trips are part of your contract – that’s standard in the region. Just make sure it’s spelled out explicitly.

Culture, Hours & Pay

Q: It sounds like the social experience is quite a bit different, to say the least, in Riyadh – but it also sounds like you’ve had free time for other activities. What are the hours like?

A: To start with, we have a standard holiday of 42 days per year along with 10 national days – so effectively we get 52 vacation days total each year.

That means I get to go back and visit friends and family every 2 months, which is a huge improvement over standard investment banking.

On average, I work around 50-60 hours per week. It is very, very rare to work more than 90 hours and I haven’t pulled any all-nighters in the 2 years I’ve been here so far.

During Ramadan, the hours are 10 AM to 3 PM for an entire month – and the senior bankers can’t even make you work more than that, because clients are just not there.

Q: Ok, I like the hours. Are they shorter because you don’t do as much busywork?

A: That’s definitely one reason. As I mentioned before, we don’t spend time scientifically adjusting comps for capitalized leases, pensions, off-balance sheet items, and so on – clients are just not sophisticated enough to notice or care.

Presentations are rarely more than 20 pages – English is a 2nd language for 90% of our clients, so they want very simple explanations. Pitching presentations are occasionally longer but 75% of the materials are standing/generic and require little to no updating.

M&I Note: To give you an idea of what 20 pages means, it’s rare to have a presentation less than 20 pages in the US – and pitch books can sometimes go on for 100+ pages.

Q: So what’s your average day like? Is there much downtime?

A: I’m usually pretty busy throughout the day – there’s not as much downtime as in other regions. I finish most of my work around 6 PM, but I might stay in the office for a few more hours depending on what’s going on at the time.

Q: What about the pay? Is it the same as London, minus the taxes?

A: It’s even better than that – in Saudi Arabia there are absolutely no taxes on anything. No income tax, no sales tax, and no VAT.

Salaries and bonuses are similar to what you would get in London at the junior level, but it’s all paid out in the local currency and we pay no taxes.

The currency is pegged to the US dollar, so there’s not too much FX risk if you’re a US citizen.

As far as bonuses, in peak years junior bankers could get around double their base salaries – but in bad years bonuses could drop to nothing or almost nothing.

When you get to the mid-level and up, a top Associate or VP in London will definitely make more than someone in Riyadh – but you might be working twice as much and you’ll lose a lot to taxes.

Q: Aha, so that’s how you save over 70% of your income. No taxes, no going out, and solid bonuses – what’s the cost of living like in Riyadh?

A: Very low. I spend about $5-$10 per day on food and non-rent expenses. Saudi Arabia is one of the few places that allows you to work 50% less and save 50-100% more than you would in New York or London.

Exit Opportunities: Working for “The Family”

Q: If you can get past the social scene, Saudi Arabia sounds like a pretty interesting place. Do you think you’ll be going back to London anytime soon?

A: Originally I was just planning to stay for a year, but I decided to extend my contract.

If you want to be an MD in London one day, coming here for 1 year to get the experience is a great idea – but if you stay longer than that, you’ll get used to 50-60 hour weeks and you’ll lose the cutthroat drive you need to make it to the top.

I may move back to London in the future, but it might be in a more specialized role (e.g. cross-border M&A) if I continue within investment banking.

Q: So it sounds like you move back to Europe quickly or you stay in the region long-term. What are the exit opportunities like after doing investment banking in Riyadh?

A: Similar to Europe, other parts of the Middle East, and everywhere outside the US, there is not as much of an obsession with exit opportunities here. Since the hours are good and the pay isn’t much different from London, many people don’t see the point in moving elsewhere.

If you do want to exit, private equity is a common route – it can sometimes be easier getting into top-tier funds here because many of them are relatively new to the scene and are looking for talent.

Q: What about sovereign wealth funds? I hear they’re kind of a big deal in Dubai.

A: Not so much in Saudi Arabia. The only “sovereign wealth fund” is the government itself, which has 2 organizations that use pension and state money to make investments. They don’t really use Westerners for any of these investments, and they’re focused on domestic infrastructure.

The #1 exit option is going to work for a “family” that controls major corporations here. They have between $200 and $300 million under management and would tell you, “Go invest our capital.”

You need to get approval before doing anything major, but they give you far more free reign with their capital than you’d ever get at a traditional PE firm or hedge fund.

It’s a nice arrangement and the only drawback, once again, is the odd social experience living in Saudi Arabia – you have to be open to it, or you’ll be miserable the whole time.

Q: So what’s your plan? Are you going to do banking and then work for one of these families? Or do you want to go back to the UK eventually?

A: I do want to return home eventually since I have friends and family back in the UK.

I’m interested in starting my own business one day, but at this point I’ll be staying in Saudi Arabia longer than I originally planned – lots of firms are coming into the region and setting up shop here, which creates some good opportunities if you’ve already made a name for yourself.

Q: Awesome, thanks for sharing your story. I think I learned more about Saudi Arabia in 1 hour than I have in the past 20 years combined!

A: No problem.

M&I - Brian

About the Author

Brian DeChesare is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys memorizing obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, traveling like a drug dealer, and defeating Sauron.

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Read below or Add a comment

  1. Hey Brian,

    I want to get in touch with the writer of this article, UK educated and have worked on some of the largest deals in the region, how do I contact him for a quick chat about his team and opportunities, particularly in the current environment? Much appreciated.

    1. This interviewee was from a long time ago (2010), and I haven’t been in touch with the interviewee since then. I can put out a message to ask, but responsiveness tends to fall exponentially as time passes.

      1. Yes please do! Doubt he’s still in Saudi at this point, 6 years, if he lasted that long that is impressive. Would still like to get in touch with him if possible that would be awesome.

  2. thanks nicole

    yes i meant top programs in US or UK
    considering my grades and experience what do you think my chances of getting accepted to top programs are? (think MIT , lse , …)

    MIT has a 18 month program which 6 month of it is internship
    what do you think my chances after completing that program are?

  3. Hi brain
    i recently found your website and I’ve been loving the heck out of it ever since, so before anything let me thank you for your great job

    * i’m a 25 years old Iranian
    * MBA in finance from sharif university (best MBA program in middle east / best university in my country)
    * GPA 3.93 out of 4 (highest in the history of program )
    * 4 year of work experience ( 2 years in accounting department of a private holding / 2 years in ER, buy side of the biggest broker in my country) [Islamic banking]
    * CPA chart holder and level 3 CFA (i know how much you hate cfa, but still thought i should include it ;))
    * i can speak fluent Persian , English , Japanese, gulf Arabic (the version of Arabic used in UAE and Saudi) and MSA or modern standard Arabic which is the language used universally in Arab world for books, contracts, news, etc…

    i was thinking about completeing a master in finance program, while getting some internships and networking and then apply for jobs in middle east (Saudi Arabia / Dubai).

    i have two questions from you:

    1) I know for a fact that with my background i can get accepted to nearly all top MSF programs, considering my goals and conditions which one do you recomand to me? ( not looking for an espicific program, something generic will be more than enought)
    2. What do you think my chances of getting an offer are? after i finish my program with 1-2 interships in IB. do you even think my background and the way i chose are good for what i have in mind? (if not what should i do?)

    many thanks


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      1. I am not sure about programs in the Middle East but I’d suggest you check out programs at Haas and Sloan
      2. I’d say a 50/50 chance but your chances can potentially increase if you have had a few internships in IB

  4. Was he working for JPM as I see that JPM is the only prominent international IB here? BTW I’m in Saudi Arabia and actively looking for IB job in Saudi and Bahrain.

  5. Hi Brian,

    At the end of this year I will graduate from the University of New South Wales (Australia), with a double degree in Law/Finance. I also have an accreditation from La Trobe University(Australia)in Islamic Finance. I can speak, read & write arabic at a basic-intermediate level. Are there any opportunities for Australian graduates in Saudi’s investment banking industry?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      I believe so; I’d leave this to other readers to comment! You may also want to start contacting a few people in Saudi and “sniff” around for opportunities

  6. Hello,

    I am an MBA(Finance) graduate from , worked with MNCs in the ERP side, i just wanted to Start my career in Investment Banking. Currently working in Saudi Arabia

    Please let me know what courses / certification should i opt to become an investment Analyst / Financial analyst

    Kind Regards

  7. Hi!

    Is there possible to get a personal e-mail from you guys telling me the banker in Saudi Arabias e-mail adress? I would really appreciate that. The fact is that I am a student in Sweden and would like to contact somebody like him. I also wondering when this article is written so i could get a time perspective?


    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Re dates, pls refer to
      I don’t think the interviewee is available at this moment but if this changes I will let you know

  8. Hi Brian,

    This is was a great piece – thank you for publishing. I wanted to get your thoughts on an opportunity I have at Saudi Aramco in their Corporate Finance group. I just graduated with an MBA from a top school in Canada and have a finance (fixed income) and accounting background. Do you think a stint in Aramco would make me a good candidate for an IB firm in Saudi or an Energy group back in North America/Europe.

    1. Avatar
      M&I - Nicole

      Yes, I think this experience can give you the background knowledge & network to break into IB (Energy).

  9. Hi Briand, I’m a saudi student currently studying industrial engineering, I’ve been interested in IB for a while now, so far I took two internships one was at a treasury(big saudi group), and the other was a general banking internship in ANB (arab national bank). I got these two internships by networking alone my family pulled some strings.
    I’m having a hard time finding a summer internship program in IB that located in Riyadh from a Top Boutique office. I’ve tried searching in HSBC (which transferred me to sabb bank), JPMORGAN and goldmansachs. I couldnt find any info in there websites at all, it’s like they don’t offer internships in these locations. I might get another internship in a normal local bank, but I really want to buff my resume. So far I’m lost, would you recommend me to contact there offices? or stalk people who work in these offices by :p ? -thanks in advance.

    1. You generally have to go through London / UK recruiting to get in. Otherwise try LinkedIn.

    2. Hello Rakaan,
      Follow Brian’s advice.
      I would like to add: Keep your options open. Do a bit of everything as networking pays especially in the ME. So you gotta apply online, call offices, get introduced thru L-In etc…

      Regarding internships; well they do offer but not always and i am afraid with the uprising in the region there ain’t gonna be much in the near future. Maybe try applying to their UK office and select SA as a second option and see how it goes. Have you considered UAE and Qatar, well you might have more chances.

      Experience wise, I believe sticking with a large local IB bank in the ME is as good or even better than BBs in terms of dealflows unless if they are willing to transfer you to London for a year or so for training. I know having a BB on ur resume is very much respected but not bad at all having SHUAA Capital for instance, coz i think many are laterally transferring from local IBs to BBs, just my own opinion.

      G’Luck with ur job hunt.

  10. Which BB/Top boutiques have offices in Saudi Arabia?

    1. Not sure about that – I think it’s more the European banks that have presences there.

      1. Hello Bruno,
        Below you can find a list for BB Banks – not sure though about Boutiques. Some have rep offices in SA like JP Morgan I believe.
        -Goldman Sachs
        -Credit Suisse
        -BofA Merrill Lynch
        -Barclays Cap
        -Deutsche Bank
        -JP Morgan
        -Morgan Stanley


  11. Very interesting article. Obviously they look for the deal-execution experience of people coming out of London and NYC, but do you think Houston would be equivalent in terms of future opportunities in Saudi Arabia due the to the energy focus?

    1. I wouldn’t say “equivalent” but yes, you would still have a decent shot coming from there.

      Keep in mind also that many deals in Saudi Arabia are actually not energy-related because the government controls all the oil supply – so it’s rare for banks to get involved there unless they really need a bank for some reason.

  12. Im going to graduate HS next year and was wondering how to best position myself to break into the IB world. Im in a saudi HS, and my options for college are here (im saudi) or abroad. Ive applied to the best universities (NYU,Wharton,UChicago,etc.) and I think I have a good shot at most of them (or atleast my statistical side tells me so).

    If I were to not be accepted at a top college in the U.S. (and hence not following the traditional path of IB recruiting), would it matter if I studied finance at King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals, graduated at the top of my class, and worked at an IB based in Riyadh? Do they prefer local entry level hires or entry-level hires from abroad? Also, is it possible to transfer to the bank’s other offices around the world (New York, London,etc.)? How long would I have to work in Riyadh (for example) before being able to request a transfer?



    1. I believe they still prefer those who have studied and worked in places like NYC/London and then come back to Riyadh. But if you wanted to do it the other way around you would probably have to wait a year for a transfer.

      1. Oh, I see.

        Where do the BBs get their summer interns from in Riyadh?

        If I worked at a large regional investment bank upon graduation (i.e. Banque Saudi Fransi,NCB Capital;NCB Cap. happens to get the most deals in Saudi Arabia) and truly shine there, would it be possible to land a BB gig in Riyadh or Dubai? In the long run, I see myself in private equity (I have relatives who work in the industry so they tell me a lot, but I havent been able to speak to them lately due to their busy schedules).

        If I were to take the above “path”, would it be too late for private equity at places like Carlyle or KKR? From what I understand from your articles, private equity firms take IB analysts after their 2nd year, and once a person hits associate he’s pretty much an IB lifer (am I right?). If I were to do the above, would I be “demoted” to an entry-level analyst or hired as an associate? How would I get into private equity from there?

        Sorry to cause you such a headache!

        Thank You,


        1. I honestly am not sure about that one but I think most banks in SA recruit locally with a few coming in from abroad as this reader did. So yes I think you could end up at a large bank there. Carlyle / KKR would be far more plausible if you wanted to work in the Middle East, elsewhere it would be tough coming from Saudi Arabia.

          1. Thank you, M&I!


  13. What’s the fastest way to get to Saudi Arabia, if you’re a just-hired entrant and if you work at a bulge bracket with a office there?

    1. Find the group at your bank that works most closely with them, get an introduction, and start talking to them about the Saudi Arabia office and the possibility of moving there.

      1. how much time will this take after I start working? (to move to Saudi Arabia)

        1. Usually a year

  14. I truly want to work in the Middle East in the future. The Laid-back culture, the exotic nature and the career advancement appeal to me. However, I wonder about the entry options for a pure undergrad at a top 10 school with 2 or 3 internships on his resume.

    A.) Do these firms hire people with no actual, full-level experience? (Like no previous jobs-other than an internship)
    B.) Are there any networking options here and will I have to supply my CV online?
    B.) What are the exit opps for a middle east IB job, not only to IB but Fortune 500?

    Thanks! I appreciate the enormous amount of help you give to people!

    1. A) No probably not unless you’re from the region.
      B) Headhunters (but better for more experienced people) otherwise cold-calling and networking with alumni.
      C) SWFs and “families” as stated here are more common; F500 is possible but probably a heavy oil & gas-focus.

  15. Hi,

    I would like to thank you for this amazing write up, and all the contributions you are making to guide young “financeurs”. Would it be possible to give an estimate on the income range of financial analysts dealing with M&A’s in Riyadh ? Do they usually get paid in Riyals or Dollars, and what are the common benefits that come with such position.


    1. I don’t have exact numbers but as the interview stated, it’s roughly the same as what you would make in London in terms of base salary… so around $60-70K USD but paid in Riyals, which are pegged to the dollar anyway. The main benefits are no taxes on anything and much better hours as the interviewee said here.

  16. Avatar

    Hi M&I,

    I’m a 3rd year entering my 4th at a non-target univ. I have had no direct finance related roles except for holding exec positions at school clubs and organizing events, etc. If given a chance to intern at a BB firm on the wealth management side, would taking it pigeon hole me for a chance to land a IB role? I have heard different aspects saying a recruiter will not look at resumes for those who have taken PWM roles in the past… yet others say it’s better to have the BB firm on your name, and the experience and connections you get while interning there will be more valuable. Specifically…. they say the connections you can build up and perhaps ask the FAs to give you more related IB work, or introduce you to some bankers, who have other connecitons etc.

    1) Do you think taking the position will pigeon hole someone if i’m entering my 4th year?

    2) What do you think about the different perspectives? The Pro-WM or the other way? is it possible to get FAs to get you more IB work such as utilizing excel, preparing CFs, etc?

    3) What are your opinions on this? Thanks

  17. I can ask him about it but he’s super-protective of his identity given his background, so no guarantees. Thanks for answering the questions above – I’ll see what I can do in terms of getting him to share his address.

  18. I have lived enough in Saudi to say that it is a good place just to save money. As mentioned, life is cheap, rent is low, and no tax on anything. Nevertheless, you have a limited life. It is harder on Bachelors rather than married people.

    For me, what was one of the most annoying things living there is the inefficiency in your life and your business. Stay enough there, and you’ll get used to the laziness and laid-back life. I only worked there for 8 months and moved to Dubai.

    If you have any specific questions, I can answer.


  19. What’s the risk of being in Saudi Arabia in terms of safety?

    1. Avatar
      No longer analyst 3!

      There was a security risk in 2004 when there were some bombings of the western compounds, but since then the risk from terrorism has been low. There have been no major incidents since then, and the western compounds have high levels of security e.g. gunned secuirty guards and a big external blockade zone before you get to the housing.

      In terms of general crime, the level of risk is very low. Expats in general are very well respected and theft, muggings etc are extremely rare.

      1. Avatar
        No longer analyst 3!

        One more thing to add, I actually feel much safer walking the streets here in Riyadh than I do in London (where there is always a small chance of a drunkern chav causing trouble, especially later at night).

        1. Hello there,
          I am interested in breaking into the i-banking industry in SA. Is it possible to pm you for further info please.


  20. I do a lot of Middle East coverage and there is no amount of money in the world for which I would relocate to Riyadh.

    1. Different strokes…

  21. Hi,

    Interesting article.

    How about one on South-East Asia? Singapore and the likes….

    1. I’ll see what we can do there, though the problem with these articles is that very few people are willing to step forward and contribute.

      It’s like getting witnesses to testify against a drug dealer who has the habit of murdering witnesses…

      1. Avatar
        In South America

        That’s the issue if the people wish to remain anonymous…

        Take the person in Saudi for example. I’m sure if there were people in the industry in the Kingdom reading this blog it would take them a few seconds (maybe a minute tops) to work out who the person is and then they may have issues.

        It’s the problem being the “oddball” in some of these places, whilst it can be extremely positive to be the foreigner (I’ve seen it myself), there are some restrictions in relation to the local cultures about what is deemed acceptable behaviour (e.g. posting blogs on the web)

        1. Tell me about it. Nothing like spending years in Asia as a foreigner…

        2. Avatar
          In South America

          Do you have anyone lined up who has worked in the industry in South or Central America?

        3. Not yet. Let me know if you want to volunteer. :)

  22. Hi Brian,

    I’ve been following your blog for quite a few months.It’s interesting and am already up to buy the networking ninja kit.

    I am out of college for almost a year.I have been applying for few entry level analyst positions since then.I got a reply today saying that there are no positions opened as of now but my resume is kept for future openings.

    How should follow up this email?


    1. Mark it as “Low Priority” and then follow-up once a month to see if anything has changed. Also try calling instead of emailing because it always gets better results.

  23. It definitely must be one of the *hottest* place on earth.

    Besides, isn’t the reason why so many ppl try to break into investment banking in US(most preferably NYC) or UK, the exit ops?

    Need your advice. Say I got two offers; One from MS IBD in Saudi and one from a smaller investment bank in NY. Which one would you prefer?

    1. NYC unless you really want to be in the Middle East in the future

      (I know your comment was a joke, but I’m answering this for any readers who are actually wondering)

      1. Yes it was :D hope it didnt made anyone wonder it seriously.
        Anyway thx for such great post!

  24. Hi Brian,

    I particulary like those ” working in emerging countries” articles/ interviews, very good ; what about the next one focusing on south africa? being the largest economy in sub-saharian africa, and having a modern banking system, would’nt it be an other place to look at some point if i want to work abroad?

    sure it certainly is’nt as hot as middle east or china nowadays, but i’m wondering if you could cover the subject.

    i sure would be interrested.

    1. One on South Africa is coming up.

      1. Would it be possible to cover South America too? (Chile, Peru, and Colombia in particular, if possible)

        1. Yes I want to but so far no willing volunteers.

  25. Avatar
    female banker

    All sounds great except for the male-only perspective. What about women working there? Is that even possible?

    1. I believe technically you can work there as a female, but it is a male-dominated culture and they will generally not be as open to it as other countries. Someone else more familiar with the exact policies may be able to answer this one more thoroughly.

      1. One thing I know for sure is that women aren’t allowed to drive.

        Saudi Arabia is awesome if you have the right biological plumbing. As a woman, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the Arab world.

      2. Avatar
        saudi uk student

        one word answer: no

        if you were saudi you wouldve actually been at an advantage in getting into the banking world (not sure about IB though,might have a lower female presence), especially with a foreign educational record,despite the bad news i must say things are slowly changing as saudi women are starting to move up into higher positions and the whole place is getting used to the situation, but i dont see forein women working in saudi anytime soon

    2. Avatar
      No longer analyst 3!

      Foreign women working in banking in Saudi is a non-starter.

      Essentially the only industries western women work in is Medical (specifically nursing or research) or Diplomatic.

      Occasionally if they are a wife of someone who is already working in Saudi, they work as teachers (though on lower pay).

      Grossly unfair but thats just the way it is….

      1. It would be greatly beneficial if you spoke the truth.

        The investment bank where I did my first internship (large regional bank) was 50% female (given that it was a small office, about 16 people).

        From what I’ve been told, the largest IB in Saudi Arabia (NCB Capital) has a female headcount rate of about 18-23%, and most of them are underqualified and/or clueless, glittery and posh young Saudi females.

        Although I doubt that even if you were very well educated and experienced that they would place a female in a high leadership role (the highest I’ve seen is a Saudi female VP, although she had about 15 years around the world under her belt. Definitely not appreciated enough).

        1. Avatar

          You mention in your own comment that they are SAUDI females, I stand by my comment that there are no FOREIGN women working in the front office of investment banks in Riyadh. I know most the bankers in Riyadh and not a single one is a foreign female.

          Btw NCB capital may be the “biggest” IB but that is simply a function of their huge asset manangement capabilities, for more traditional IPO and M&A products the market leaders are HSBC, Samba, MS, GIB, Caylon, AFG, Riyadh Capital etc – check the leage tables…

  26. Avatar
    another hot one

    I guess Tel Aviv is supposed to be hot at the moment. People consider it a strong tech region (behind Silicon Valley and Boston). Not sure what that means regarding pay and lifestyle, but I thought I’d mention Israel.

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