Setting the standard in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s Institute of Finance wanted to grow – to go from a training school to being the Kingdom’s industry body for banking and insurance qualifications.

In Saudi Arabia, the Institute of Finance is a department of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA). Their key focus is to lift skills levels across Saudi Arabia’s financial services sector and create career pathways into and throughout the industry.

What the Institute of Finance recognised was that to achieve this, it first needed to create a comprehensive national qualifications framework. However, this would involve a radical change – as the Institute would have to transform from a training provider into Saudi Arabia’s standard setting body and qualifications provider for the entire banking and insurance sector.

So, in 2014, the then newly appointed Director General of the Institute of Finance approached 20 organisations – for expressions of interest to help develop a qualifications and assessments framework. One of these organisations was Skills International. And, after making the cut to the final four, the team was appointed to take on the project.

The Challenges

  • Historically, the Institute of Finance had developed training programmes and courses to meet a range of needs as they arose. But, the move towards a more holistic approach to training development would be a big shift for the Institute of Finance.
  • There were also several cultural issues that would need to be managed and Institute of Finance participants were more used to working from a prescriptive approach. That contrasted with the consultative approach that would be needed, working with subject matter specialists from various sectors within the financial services industry.

To address this, Skills International and the Institute of Finance worked closely with industry representatives and through combining structured exercises and discussions, the two organisations produced a framework that included:

  • Occupational standards that were validated by subject matter experts – so they captured competence requirements within the Saudi financial services.
  • Examinations – the Institute of Finance adopted Skills International’s assessment writing process. This involved subject matter experts developing questions against assessment judgements and written by Skills International’s qualifications developers.
  • Transforming the Institute of Finance into a standard setting body for the financial services sector – using training providers to meet the occupational standards set, while maintaining quality and integrity through an assessment team based in Riyadh. Essentially, modelling Skills Group International’s industry training organisation structure in New Zealand.

The delivery of Saudi Arabia’s Institute of Finance programme by Skills International was deemed a great success. Key outcomes included:

  • Frameworks were successfully completed for the major financial services sectors, including retail and corporate banking, and insurance. Work has now also been completed on smaller sectors such as SME financing and organisational compliance.
  • The Institute of Finance brought training and education providers into the picture to develop new and improved training delivery. As a result, industry satisfaction with training improved significantly.
  • A range of assessments and qualifications starting at the foundation/entry level is now firmly established in the sector. These are delivered in a range of innovative ways and assessed online.

The sector is becoming increasingly professional with skills that capture world class practice, ensuring Saudi Arabia’s financial services professionals are well equipped for success.