View all newsletters
Receive our newsletter - data, insights and analysis delivered to you
In association with Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB)
  1. Sponsored
15 August, 2022

Citi Bahrain bets big on local coding talent

Citi’s Global Technology Hub will create 1,000 coding jobs in Bahrain over the next ten years. CEO Michel Sawaya explains why this is just the beginning of Citi’s local recruitment drive and why other banking giants shouldn’t think twice about following suit.

In September 2021, banking giant Citi launched its Global Technology Hub in Bahrain, showing the depth and diversity of IT talent available in the country and its potential to help global banking players accelerate the development of innovative digital solutions.

Sitting right in the middle of global time zones, Bahrain has the most established financial services sector in the region as well as one of the most progressive. It is already the most significant contributor to the Kingdom’s GDP after oil and, with more than 65% of Bahrain’s highly skilled and educated workforce working in the sector, there is room for much more growth.

Citi’s Global Technology Hub, which was developed to help the company scale more rapidly and meet increasing demand from its clients for automated solutions, plans to maximise this opportunity.

“A huge milestone”

Over the next ten years, the project, which has been developed in partnership with Bahrain Labour Fund (Tamkeen) and the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), will create a total of 1,000 coding jobs across multiple departments, a significant milestone considering that the country’s financial services sector currently employs around 14,000 people in total.

Citi has started by recruiting technologists for the bank’s industry-leading global foreign exchange business, which will work on enhancing execution and connectivity capabilities across FX trading and analytics systems. The hope is that the project will scale to support Citi Markets and Citi’s Institutional Client Group more broadly.

“What we are doing here is on a scale that is unprecedented for our Bahrain operations,” says Citi Bahrain CEO Michel Sawaya, who moved to the country in May last year. “It is up to 100 people per year for ten years and these are not bankers, they are software designers, some fresh out of university and some with a high level of experience. It is a very big milestone for us at Citi Bahrain, which makes me very proud – but it is also a huge milestone for EDB and Tamkeen.”

Diverse and talented workforce

Citi chose Bahrain as the location for its hub for several reasons. The bank has a more-than-50-year history in Bahrain, with many regional functions already based in the country. It also owns a building, a rare occurrence for foreign entities. The regulatory landscape, which evolves quickly in reaction to global changes and emerging financial technologies, is another positive of operating out of Bahrain. “The Central Bank of Bahrain is very supportive of growth,” adds Sawaya.

The availability of talent was another key draw. Citi conducted a rigorous technical coding test and interview process, with Bahraini talent showing the highest pass rate compared with other countries, unsurprising perhaps as Bahrain ranks first in the Human Capital Index in the MENA region, according to the World Bank.

Bahrain also has an incredibly diverse workforce, which chimes with Citi’s ethos. “We have a culture of respect, diversity and human interaction,” says Sawaya. “For us, diversity goes beyond gender. If you look at every meeting we have, every session we have, it feeds into this. Diversity is a key target for us.”

Finally, Citi’s long-standing partnership with EDB and Tamkeen meant they had no doubts that the whole process would go smoothly.

“Don’t think twice”

Sawaya doesn’t plan to limit the initiative to the initial 1,000 coding jobs. “For the time being, we are focusing on getting the ball rolling for the next one or two years and creating a functioning programme. We already have two recruiters that are hired full-time for this project. Longer term, I am wishing for a time where we can say, ‘This building isn’t big enough for us anymore, we need to find somewhere else’,” he smiles.

Sawaya wouldn’t hesitate to point other banking players down a similar path. “We believe in Bahrain’s educational system, and the overall work environment and living environment in Bahrain is wonderful,” says Sawaya. “I feel privileged to be part of the Bahrain financial services environment and my advice for any company that is looking at Bahrain is ‘Don’t think twice’.”

Free Whitepaper

Accessing US$1.67tn of GCC market opportunities through Bahrain

Bahrain’s Economic Recovery Plan builds on the Kingdom’s strategic location, forward-thinking regulatory approach and existing digital infrastructure to place it at the forefront of innovation in the industries and sectors that are going to change the world – from FinTech to sustainable tourism. This report from MEED and Investment Monitor, in association with EDB Bahrain, explores each of the plan’s pillars and programmes to create cross-sector opportunities for investors. It also focuses on how Bahrain is developing state-of-the-art logistics infrastructure and technology, combined with the establishment of new trade zones, to provide new entrants into the country with easy access to markets around the world, allowing them to turbo-charge through the post-pandemic recovery and into the future.
by EDB Bahrain

By clicking the Download Free Whitepaper button, you accept the terms and conditions and acknowledge that your data will be used as described in the EDB Bahrain privacy policy

By downloading this Whitepaper, you acknowledge that we may share your information with our white paper partners/sponsors who may contact you directly with information on their products and services.

Visit our privacy policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Topics in this article:
NEWSLETTER Sign up Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Data, analysis and deep insights on foreign direct investment delivered to you
I consent to GlobalData UK Limited collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy


Thank you for subscribing to Investment Monitor