Saudi banks see a future in Vision 2030

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As depressed oil prices continue to hit Saudi Arabia’s banks hard, the Kingdom’s plan for radical economic change is being seized upon as cause for optimism.

By Olivier Holmey

On May 3, more than 1,600 bankers, investors and government officials gathered at the Al Faisaliah hotel in Riyadh to attend Euromoney’s annual Saudi Arabia conference. 

Just a week after the announcement of perhaps the most ambitious development plan in the Kingdom’s history, there was enthusiastic talk of reform and, most importantly, diversification of the economy away from the natural resource that has driven Saudi growth since the 1940s: oil. 

Nearby, at the Mena Hotel, a more humble seminar was taking place. A dozen accountants from the Saudi Arabian military were being taught how to report government expenses more accurately. 

Budgets are being tightened and the state is scrutinizing spending more intently than ever before. Some argue it is the first time any proper scrutiny has been applied. As one attendant, an accountant for the National Guard, puts it: "When the...