Obituary: H.E. Jammaz bin Abdullah Al-Suhaimi

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The former head of Saudi Arabia’s CMA was a far-sighted internationalist whose commitment to transparency, technocratic leadership, governance, empowerment of women and young people foreshadowed the far-reaching reforms now energising the country.

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H.E. Jammaz bin Abdullah Al-Suhaimi, the first chairman of the Saudi Arabian Capital Markets Authority (CMA) and a hugely influential and visionary figure in the development of the Saudi financial markets, died in Riyadh on Tuesday.

Jammaz (as he was universally known) was an early and constant advocate of the need for good governance, institutional reform and the opening of the Kingdom to international capital. His long and distinguished career included senior positions at the Ministry of Finance, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, as deputy governor for banking supervision, Saudi Sanabil and, until his death, at Bahrain’s Gulf International Bank.

As the first chariman of the Saudi CMA it was Jammaz’s job to oversee the first steps the Kingdom took to liberalise its capital markets. Established in 2004 the CMA was tasked with fostering an investment culture amongst ordinary Saudi citizens. Although home to many sophisticated and wealthy investors, the majority of the Kingdom’s citizens had little or no experience of equity investing.

Perhaps his biggest challenge at the CMA was encouraging many of Saudi Arabia’s most successful companies, often closely held family businesses, to list on the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) and utilise it as a source of growth capital and embrace the governance standards that came with it. This required all of Jammaz’s characteristic patient explanation, gentle persuasion and an unrelenting persistence.

His efforts gained rich rewards when the most successful private Saudi companies such as Al Marai Dairies, Sadafco, Jarir Marketing and many others came to market under his watch, and have flourished since.

Jammaz had all the best Saudi characteristics – hospitality, humour, loyalty, energy, gentleness and humility. To his many friends – including those at Euromoney - he cajoled, advised, teased and entertained in equal measure.

He was devoted to his family and one of his children, Sarah is the first woman chair of the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) as well as CEO of NCB Capital (facts of which Jammaz was extremely proud).

Euromoney has covered the development of the Saudi financial markets for many decades, but it was at Jammaz’s introduction that we launched the first major international financial conference in Riyadh in 2006.  The product of two years’ work and a huge amount of behind-the-scenes reassurance (both of Saudi partners and of Euromoney) by Jammaz, the conference was a landmark success and has run every year since. Over the years it has brought nearly 5000 foreign investors, bankers and analysts to the Kingdom – many of them for the first time.

When the conference began, foreign investment in the Saudi market was prohibited, but it was Jammaz’s vision that one day it would come and that the Kingdom and its institutions had better be ready for it.  He was also determined to show to the world that Saudi Arabia was not the dark place portrayed in the media. 

When the Saudi equity market opened to foreign capital in 2015 his tireless efforts were vindicated. Jammaz was a far-sighted internationalist whose commitment to transparency, technocratic leadership, governance, empowerment of women and young people foreshadowed the far-reaching reforms now energising Saudi Arabia. 

Jammaz held a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Washington in Seattle, USA.  He was deputy director general of the Saudi Industrial Development Fund from 1982 to 1984. He joined the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency as director-general for banking control, rising to the deputy governorship in 1989. 

In 2004 he was appointed as the first chairman and CEO of the Saudi Arabian Capital Market Authority, a post he held until late 2006 when, against the backdrop of a sudden fall in Saudi stock market valuations, he resigned from his position.

Euromoney wrote at the time: “His efforts to establish a properly regulated market will survive his departure from office. The public will remember his approach; approval for it might even now grow rather than diminish. A benchmark for acceptable market practice has been set, far higher than it was before the formation of the CMA in 2004."

Subsequently, in addition to many board positions, he was vice chairman of the Saudi Arabian Investment Company (Saudi Sanabil) and chairman of Gulf International Bank.

As recently as this summer, he was enthusiastically talking up the opportunities for GIB around its new licenses for both a retail digital bank in Bahrain, and a local bank in Saudi Arabia. Jammaz’s energy and enthusiasm for finance never waned.

Our thoughts and condolences go to Jammaz’s family and friends.