Riyad Bank, a member of the U.S.-Saudi Business Council (USSBC), serves U.S. customers through its Houston office as well as customers throughout the Gulf region through its headquarters in Riyadh. Riyad Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in Saudi Arabia, offering retail and corporate banking services including credit cards, mutual fund products, electronic trade financing, treasury services, financing, and IPO advice for a diverse set of industries. Chris Chambers, General Manager, Riyad Bank Houston Agency, recently spoke with the Council about Riyad Bank’s operations, the services it offers U.S. and Saudi customers, its unique expertise in financing U.S.-Saudi trade and investment, and its long-term goals for Saudi Arabia’s development.
How does Riyad Bank help U.S. companies that have an interest or presence in Saudi Arabia, and why is Riyad Bank a better partner for these companies than any other U.S.-based bank?
Riyad Bank is the only Saudi bank operating in the U.S. – we are proud to have been based in Houston since 1990 supporting U.S. companies doing business in Saudi Arabia and assisting Saudi companies operating and investing in the U.S.
We have an experienced team of U.S. relationship bankers who work closely with our Saudi colleagues supporting international clients who operate or do business in Saudi Arabia. We combine broad U.S. and international banking experience together with deep expertise in providing banking and financing support within Saudi Arabia to meet our clients’ needs. When companies bank with us, they deal with one bank – not a U.S. bank and a local Saudi bank – just one seamless interaction. This is key to U.S. companies because of time zones, language, and we stay in contact with them throughout the entire process and thereafter. In Saudi Arabia, we provide a full range of banking services including bank accounts, trade finance, working capital funding, and project financing. In the U.S. we can provide financing support to Saudi companies and investors who are not well known to U.S. banks.
We take a long-term relationship view; many of our clients represent a 20+ year relationship with Riyad Bank and we consistently receive strong feedback on the quality of our service – we understand the importance of prompt, accurate service and communication at a fair price.
What has been Riyad Bank’s role in helping Saudi Arabia achieve Vision 2030’s privatization goals?
Riyad Bank is one of the largest supporters of Saudi Vision 2030 and its programs. In 2019, we launched a Vision Realization office to ensure our strategic plans were aligned with Vision 2030 objectives and in 2021, we were the first bank to set up a Business Initiatives & Enablers unit to support government and private entities to achieve Vision 2030 goals. We have developed many diverse initiatives specifically designed to support activities related to target sectors and businesses, supply chains, logistics, and support service providers. Examples include:
- A Collaboration Agreement with King Salman Energy Park (SPARK).
- Establishing an Investors Forum in partnership with the National Center for Privatization (NCP) to engage with both local Saudi investors and potential international investors for KSA’s privatization and development opportunities.
- Tourism Partners Fund launched with the Tourism Development Fund to support tourism projects.
Riyad Bank counts many large, industry-leading companies among its clients – does the bank have any special offerings for U.S. SMEs that wish to become involved with Saudi partners or invest in the Saudi economy?
Whilst our U.S. clients are predominantly global multinationals who have selected Riyad Bank as a key banking partner due to our Saudi capability and willingness to provide U.S. financing support, our Houston team frequently acts as a conduit for U.S. SMEs seeking to operate in Saudi Arabia. We work closely with our International Corporate Banking team in Saudi Arabia who are specifically set up to support international companies doing business in Saudi Arabia – this can range from guidance on opening bank accounts (including Saudi account mandate requirements) to trade finance and working capital funding. We find this approach whereby our U.S. team establishes the initial dialogue and understanding of a U.S. SME’s needs before engaging with our Saudi-based colleagues enables a smoother process with our U.S. team available to support discussions, bringing our U.S. banking experience and understanding of client needs together with our Saudi colleagues’ local knowledge.
From Riyad Bank’s recent experience, which industries/sectors in Saudi Arabia are attracting the most attention from foreign companies, and which are the most poised for growth?
Saudi Arabia is at an exciting stage in its development, as it diversifies from a carbon-based economy and it seeks employment opportunities for its young workforce. It has excellent potential in renewables, notably solar and green hydrogen, and there is significant interest in healthcare, mining, and tourism with the Saudi government being very supportive in assisting international companies across these sectors. I am excited about NEOM, the new city being developed in northwest Saudi Arabia which will seek to redefine how people live and work with a focus on urban sustainability and a hub for innovation, powered 100% by renewable energy. Neom is currently engaging with interested partners who are aligned with its vision and objectives and hosted a number of events across the U.S. to build knowledge on its goals and how U.S. companies can help support/participate.
Your Houston office specializes in letters of credit and loans – what kinds of U.S. customers do you typically help with those services?
We have a very diverse client base across a range of sectors including engineering/construction, aerospace/defense, healthcare, energy/petrochemicals, and industrials. As the largest trade finance bank in Saudi Arabia, our clients value our expertise regarding guarantee language with major Saudi corporations and state-owned entities. We support projects across the life cycle from initial bid stage (Bid Bonds), contract award (Procurement, Advance Payment), performance (Performance Bonds), and post-completion (Retention Bonds). We also take a lead role in Saudi project financing and syndicated transactions involving U.S. corporates.