By Tom Arnold
DUBAI, May 10 (Reuters) – Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabia’s second largest bank by assets, is to replace its chief executive, with the new head’s priority likely to be reversing its fortunes after seven straight quarterly profit drops.
Suleiman bin Abdul Aziz al-Zabin resigned as chief executive for personal reasons, effective May 17, it said on Sunday in a statement.
His replacement would be Steve Bertamini, who had been appointed chief executive, effective from May 18, it said.
University of Texas graduate Bertamini was group executive director and chief executive of consumer banking for Standard Chartered between May 2008 and January 2015, according to his LinkedIn page.
Replacement of Saudi nationals with foreigners in senior positions in the kingdom is relatively rare, with Bertamini believed to be one of the first non-Saudi chief executives at the bank since its founding in the late 1950s.
“He comes with a wealth of experience in managing the retail business, which has traditionally been the bank’s strongest position,” said Murad Ansari, director of equity research at EFG-Hermes.
Last month Al Rajhi posted 1.52 billion riyals ($405.35 million) in the first quarter, 11 percent down from the same period of last year.
The bank’s consumer business has been hit by new rules and tougher competition from other lenders in the kingdom. It has one of the highest exposures in the financial sector to the retail segment, with more than 60 percent of its loan book related to that segment.
Appetite for retail credit has also been curbed by recent mortgage rules limiting the maximum loan-to-value ratio at 70 percent.
Al-Zabin was appointed chief executive in April 2012. He took over from Abdullah bin Suleiman al-Rajhi, part of the family that, according to Thomson Reuters data, owns a 14.79 percent stake in the bank.
($1 = 3.7498 riyals) (Reporting by Tom Arnold; Editing by Andrew Torchia and William Hardy)