Lifetime achievement award in the Middle East: Al-Eisa proves local is best
After the parting with Citi in 2003, Saudi Arabia’s Samba has thrived under the leadership of Eisa Al-Eisa, the recipient of Euromoney’s award for outstanding contribution to financial services in the Middle East. Sudip Roy reports.
"Since inheriting Citibank’s legacy five years ago, Samba has grown across the spectrum. We have developed a successful business model that has withstood a multitude of challenges"
Eisa Al-Eisa, Samba
NEXT YEAR EISA Al-Eisa celebrates 30 years at Samba. But his career at the Saudi financial institution can be broken into two distinct parts: Citi and post-Citi. It’s the second phase that stands out most, an era during which Al-Eisa’s leadership of Samba has revitalised the bank. Samba Financial Group was established in 1980 after acquiring two Citibank branches in Jeddah and Riyadh. Under the takeover terms, 44.5% of the equity was sold to the Saudi public for cash. Another 15.5% was sold to a select group of Saudi founders, including the original Saudi board of directors. In practice, though, Citi owned and managed the group despite its controlling only 40% of Samba’s stock.
That stake was whittled down over the years until in 2003 the US bank left altogether. It’s still not clear why it pulled out: whether Citi’s management lost its nerve after the attacks on the World Trade Center and abandoned Saudi Arabia or whether the Saudi authorities, keen to create a national champion, hustled Citi out of the door.