Banque Saudi Fransi and AstroLabs - bridge the gap between technology and banking


According to Fintech Saudi’s report for 2021, 38-40 percent of financial technology companies in Saudi Arabia consider talent to be their biggest hurdle, and 88 percent have identified ‘finding the right skillset’ as one of the main challenges to recruiting talent, with 51 percent having trouble finding the right level of experience.


Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - June 20, 2022: The financial ecosystem in Saudi Arabia has come to terms with its unique challenges - and financial institutions are embracing change in an attempt to recruit digital talent in the country. According to Fintech Saudi’s report for 2021, 38-40 percent of financial technology companies consider talent to be their biggest hurdle, and 88 percent have identified ‘finding the right skillset’ as one of the core challenges. The sector requires a collaborative, self-sustaining, and curated approach to nurture a technology talent pool with future skills - one that develops talent from the ground-up, and enhances competitiveness among Saudi graduates.


This week, Banque Saudi Fransi concluded the first cohort of its ‘Digital Engineering Apprenticeship Program’ in partnership with AstroLabs, a MENA technology ecosystem builder contributing to the development of the region’s digital growth. The program, one in a series of similar initiatives, is a testament to the commitment of Banque Saudi Fransi to pioneer the digital transformation in Saudi Arabia’s financial sector, and the role of AstroLabs in supporting the bank in building and accelerating its digital mindset.


"Our digital engineering talent is central and pivotal to the success of BSF. We no longer need to rely on third parties, and instead we are building the future pipeline of digital talent with our partners, AstroLabs.” Michael Cunningham, Chief Strategy & Digital Officer at Banque Saudi Fransi.


Over a span of 6 months, the 3-phase program offered the selected candidates an extensive training curriculum that concluded with a fully functional savings app which will eventually allow the bank’s customers to choose their savings goals and support them in improving their financial well-being.


Reema Siyam, Head of Banque Saudi Fransi’s Academy said, ‘’The Digital Apprenticeship is the first of its kind in the Kingdom and in the sector. We want to equip prospective employees with the tools and skills to not only work in digital banking, but to lead in that area. The partnership between BSF Academy, AstroLabs, and BSF’s digital team will continue to pave the way forward to develop local talent to meet the exciting challenges of an evolving industry. This is one of several initiatives coming from the Academy to support the growth into digital in terms of skills, tools, and mindsets, and we aim to continue to deepen our curricula with both digital content and delivery."


Beyond coding bootcamps, banking and financial literacy courses, and software development; AstroLabs and Banque Saudi Fransi expanded the scope of the program to include mentorship on collaborative communication skills, pitching skills, as well as pairing and mentorship from their managers. Several engagements and community events gave the candidates access to the AstroLabs community, technology leaders, CTOs, and industry stakeholders, narrowing the gap between education and employment in a practical, realistic environment. The curriculum gave participants the skillset and experience that will enable them to succeed in BSF’s digital banking space, and integrated them to become core members of the BSF team from the onset.


“To be a digital leader in Saudi Arabia, BSF has embarked on a journey to attract and develop the best technology talent in the market. Our digital engineering apprenticeship program is a first for the industry, and validates our commitment to invest in the skills of the future to support digital banking in the Kingdom” said Grant Niven, Head of Group Digital at Banque Saudi Fransi.


Roland Daher, CEO of AstroLabs said “Over the span of 9 years, our Academy has trained over 10,000 participants working on advancing their careers, venturing into new industries, or building their own companies. This Digital Apprenticeship has been one of the most innovative programs we’ve executed in the region so far, designed for maximum access and immersion within the bank from its onset - it is very exciting to see such tangible outcomes from this formula. In partnership with Banque Saudi Fransi, we disrupted the conventional graduate program model and built a case study for fast-tracking strategic technology talent into the workforce, within a practical, realistic environment.’’


The GCC faces a massive talent gap of 3.1 million jobs for nationals by 2025, of which 1.8 million are in Saudi Arabia. Technology talent can help transform the region into a competitive force on the global digital scale, as estimates indicate that the impact would contribute to an additional $255 billion in regional gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030, including $119 billion in Saudi Arabia alone.


For media inquiries:


- Lara Fakih, Director of communications at AstroLabs: Lara@astroLabs.com

- Hatim AlAhmadi, Communication Lead at BSF: halahmadi@alfransi.com.sa


About AstroLabs:


AstroLabs is a technology ecosystem builder for the MENA region, enabling the growth of companies through market entry and expansion services, capability building programs, and a specialized talent recruiting practice. AstroLabs is the only platform in the region that brings this entire suite of complementary services together in support of high-growth startups, digitally-transforming enterprises and governments building ecosystems.



About Banque Saudi Fransi:

Banque Saudi Fransi is a Saudi Arabian Joint Stock Company established in 1977. We offer a wide range of financial services in Corporate Banking and Retail Banking including Islamic banking in accordance with Islamic Shar'ah principles. The bank also provides investment banking, asset management and investment funds, in addition to brokerage services through its subsidiary Saudi Fransi Capital. Headquartered in Riyadh, the bank maintains regional offices in Jeddah, Al-Riyadh and Al-Khobar.

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