The GCC Board Directors Institute (BDI) recently held its 2nd Chairman Summit. Co-sponsored by Saudi Aramco and SABIC, the event attracted over 60 chairmen and senior Board directors from leading organizations across the Gulf.
The Summit’s prime objective is to stimulate dialogue on matters of particular interest to chairmen and their contribution in achieving and enhancing Board effectiveness and corporate governance standards within their respective organizations.
“We are pleased with the continuing success and increasing momentum of the GCC Board Directors Institute. This young not-for-profit organization, which was established in 2007 based on a visionary seed planted by Saudi Aramco aiming to make a positive impact on the GCC economies and societies by raising the level of Board effectiveness, is now in full gear,” said Mr. Abdallah Al-Saadan, Senior Vice President- Finance, Strategy & Development of Saudi Aramco.
Mr. Al-Saadan added: “The various workshops, Board members’ development tools and techniques, world-class faculty who lead focused interactive sessions to address relevant Board issues, and the flagship program “Chairman’s Summit” are making tremendous strides towards achieving the original vision. The attendance of a large number of leading chairmen, Board members, CEOs, CFOs, regulators and consultants is a great testimony to the success of BDI, and a confirmation that it is filling a critical gap in the region. Saudi Aramco continues to believe that the positive impact BDI has been making in promoting and strengthening effective directorship will continue to expand over time. Based on that, our company will continue to lend its full support to BDI for the benefit of our region.”
“Again, Saudi Aramco, and I am sure the other founding members and partners of BDI, are pleased with BDI’s continued success, growing role, positive reputation, and increasing contribution towards sustainable prosperity within the GCC region,” further said Mr. Al-Saadan.
Key discussions were launched among the panelists, 8 prominent business industry leaders from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, including Ms. Sabah Al Moayyed, CEO of Ebdaa Bank, Mr. Taha Al Kuwaiz, Chairman of Bank Al Jazira, Mr. Mohamed Hamad Al Shehi, Board Member at Emirates NBD, Dr. Hasan Al Zahrani, President and Chief Executive Officer of Luberef, Ms. Afshan Akhtar, General Counsel of ALBA, Mr. Abdullah Al-Suwailem, President & Chief Executive Officer of Petro Rabigh, Mr. Abdulmohsen Alissa, Chairman & Managing Director of Abdullatif Alissa Group Holding Company, and Mr. Beshr Bakheet, Managing Director of Osool & Bakheet Investment Company.
“SABIC is honored to co-sponsor with Saudi Aramco this prestigious event. We are extremely delighted with the outcome of the Summit and its success in raising awareness in regards to the Chairman’s unique role in ensuring Boards achieve and maintain higher levels of corporate governance practices,” said Mr. Mutlaq H. Al-Morished, CFO of SABIC and Chairman of BDI.
Remarks by Khalid A. Al-Falih, President & CEO of Saudi Aramco
Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: good afternoon. It is great to be back in Houston among so many good friends. It’s great to see the Honorable Bill White here: I will never forget your warm reception back in 2009, when you declared that May 1st was “Khalid Al-Falih Day” in Houston. I also met Mayor Parker a few weeks ago in Norway, and she told me that she would have liked to join us as well, had she been in town. I would also like to welcome Council Member Brenda Stardig to this inauguration, and extend my appreciation for the support we have received from the City in establishing this important center.
It is great to be back in Texas any time of the year, but September has always been special because of the great football rivalries in this state. When I went to school at A&M, the Southwest Conference was thriving and I enjoyed seeing the Aggies rampaging over Houston-area teams. Once we were in the SEC, I thought we had lost that joy forever—but this year we had both Rice and Lamar up in College Station!
My friends, when it came to selecting a location for this new R&D Center, where else could we go but Houston? Here you find great universities, great research institutions and great oil and gas firms alike; petroleum runs through Houston’s veins; and the city is synonymous with energy. Spindletop blew in just up the road back in 1901, and two years later the Port Arthur Refinery—now this country’s largest refinery and the flagship of our Motiva joint venture—began operations.
Of course, Houston has been a familiar stomping ground for many of us Aramcons over the years, and our roots in the city run deep. In fact, this year we are marking the fortieth anniversary of the transfer of the Aramco Services Company headquarters from New York to Houston. As a result of that move, ASC is ideally placed to work with the best of the best in the oil and gas industry, including leading engineering and services companies. We are able to recruit top notch energy professionals. And we can guide our company-sponsored students enrolled at some of the world’s finest universities found all across this great state. Simply put, when it comes to energy, Houston is the place to be and we are proud to be a part of it.
Together, the city and the industry have weathered booms and busts, riding high with the advent of substantial Gulf of Mexico production in the 1980s, and a generation later booming again with the shale oil and gas revolution we are experiencing today. But Houston was no mere passenger on the industry’s roller coaster—if I can use that metaphor. Instead, Houston was the engine with its unique mix of inventiveness, entrepreneurship, grit, and can-do attitude. And whether it was the original oil boom or the successive offshore step outs that have kept Houston in the forefront of our industry, technology has always been the key.
Consider the latest game changer. A number of facilitating factors, both below the surface and above the ground, have encouraged the growth of this country’s unconventional hydrocarbon production, and again at the heart of that growth lies technology. Actually, it is the story of an innovative combination of two existing technologies—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—and it is a story where Houston plays a starring role. Once George Mitchell—a native of Galveston and, I might add, a fellow Aggie—joined those two technologies together, vast hydrocarbon resources became economically viable. The net result has been the production of billions of barrels of crude oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas. Those contributions are welcome, because they expand the world’s total reserves of oil and gas, both of which are essential to the continued economic development and prosperity of a planet that by 2050 will be home to an additional two billion people aspiring for prosperity.
Of course, when we talk about the State of Texas, we know it has always been on the frontier: whether the literal frontier in the 19th century, the frontier of the oil industry and the space race in the 20th, or the frontier of advanced science, information technology, and corporate innovation in the 21st. That capacity to continually grow and reinvent oneself which we see in Texas is shared by Saudi Aramco, which grew from a speculative search for oil in the 1930s to the world’s leading petroleum enterprise.
Furthermore, Houston is not only a renowned center of innovation in the energy sector alone; it is a place that generates step changes and game-changing technologies far beyond the realm of petroleum—notably in space and the health sciences. That may seem beyond the scope of our work and unrelated to our areas of interest as an energy enterprise—but being in the midst of an ecosystem of multifaceted research and innovation is extremely important to us. Not only does it set the stage for our own technological endeavors, but there could also be tremendous synergies and opportunities for cross-fertilization among these sectors.
In fact, when I listened to Mayor Parker’s speech in Norway, I was intrigued by the “Pumps and Pipes” conference which brings together this city’s healthcare, aerospace, and petroleum sectors to exchange ideas and best practices. For example, we have seen medical CT scanners being re-purposed to map the tiniest pores and the flow of fluids in reservoir rocks. We have also witnessed the remote sensing technologies originally developed for the space program helping engineers and scientists measure previously unmeasurable properties.
Saudi Aramco proved to be a major draw at “Invest Saudi,” an investment forum hosted by the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA) in Paris.
The forum immediately followed the Saudi-French Council’s 34th annual meeting, which was marked by the attendance of HRH Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The Prince addressed an auditorium consisting of more than 300 leaders from France’s business community, including oil and gas companies.
Prince Salman, who was on an official visit to the French capital, was joined by other notable speakers, including: Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, chairman of the Council of Saudi Chambers; HE Tawfiq Fawzan Al-Rabiah, Minister of Commerce and Industry; and HE Abdullatif Al-Othman, Governor of SAGIA.
French involvement in discussions came chiefly from Thomas Thevenoud, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, and Thierry Courtaigne, CEO of MEDEF (Movement of the Enterprises of France), France’s largest union of employers, who moderated the sessions.
Meanwhile, Saudi Aramco was represented by Nasser Al-Yami, manager of the Industrial Development Department, who spoke during a session on energy opportunities highlighting Saudi’s impending growth and the challenges that come along with it. “We at Saudi Aramco realize that the only way to meet these challenges is to partner with our strategic suppliers, industry leaders and technology providers. We are very proud of the collaboration that has already materialized between the Saudi business community and France,” he said.
Indeed, off the back of a successful initiation of Saudi Aramco Total Refining and Petrochemical Company (SATORP) — a partnership between Saudi Aramco and France’s Total, which was mentioned on several occasions — there was a strong sense that Saudi-French commercial ties could be extended even further, even beyond oil and gas, to areas such as transportation and health care.
At the subsequent exhibition, visitors had the chance to liaise with counterparts from across the Kingdom’s business landscape, including Saudi Aramco. Delegates visiting the company included many of the aforementioned, including Al-Othman, who during the morning conference underlined the Kingdom’s credentials.
Paris is the second stop this year for SAGIA and its drive for foreign investment, following a similar event it hosted during spring in Central London, where Saudi Aramco also showed its support.
Saudi Aramco, GE (NYSE: GE), and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) today inaugurated the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s first all-female business process service center. The Riyadh-based center, which is supported by the Human Resources Development Fund Programs, complements Saudi Arabia’s localization targets, and strengthens local job creation and economic diversification.
Announced in September 2013, the all-female employee business process service center will offer customers specialized Finance & Accounting, HR, Materials Supply and Office services to improve their operational efficiency. The 3,200 square meter facility will create up to 3,000 local jobs for Saudi women within the next three years.
The official opening ceremony was attended by HE Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al Rabiah, minister of commerce and industry, HRH Prince Saud bin Khalid Al Faisal, deputy governor of Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), Khalid Al Falih, Saudi Aramco president and CEO, John Rice, GE’s Vice Chairman, Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD of TCS and more than 100 dignitaries from Saudi Arabian government entities and business executives.
Saudi Aramco president and CEO Khalid Al Falih, said: “The first all-female business process service center in Saudi Arabia brings significant value to the Saudi economy and society. It helps address the challenge of creating jobs for talented and skilled Saudi female graduates, establishes a more diverse workforce, and boosts the competitiveness of Saudi Arabia.”
John Rice, GE’s Vice Chairman, said: “Today’s inauguration is proof of our commitment to support the Kingdom’s priorities around human capital development and the creation of employment opportunities for talented Saudi women. We are proud to be partnering with the Government entities in the Kingdom, and our two partners Saudi Aramco and Tata Consulting Services on creating this sustainable Saudi based entity that will serve customers across the globe.”
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD of TCS, said: “Skills, talent and technology converge at the Kingdom’s first all-female business process service center, which marks a new era for the IT and business process services industry in the Kingdom. The center draws on the experience of TCS in providing shared services across global markets and clients in the Kingdom can now focus on their core competencies while partnering with this venture. We thank our partners Saudi Aramco and GE and look forward to their continued support to scale up operations at the center.”
Saudi Aramco and GE are the initial clients of the center that will provide specialized business services supporting the companies’ operations. Both organizations have already surpassed their targets of hiring over 100 women each and also transferred business services to the center.
In the center’s first phases, around 300 employees have been recruited. The employees received over 80,000 hours of intensive training in various disciplines. Nearly 90 of the Saudi recruits are fresh graduates, while the rest have two to four years of experience.
The business process service center has already achieved over 70 per cent Saudization rate. The Saudi fresh graduates, who form part of the workforce, were chosen from King Saud University, Princess Noura University, Imam University and others. Over 1,200 candidates were interviewed for the jobs.
All the recruits were also provided extensive training on subjects such as communications, presentation skills, corporate etiquette, global culture, MS Excel skills and domain training to ensure the highest levels of service efficiency.
More than 500 attendees making the closing ceremony for the Summer Program to an impressive testimony to its success.
Hosted by the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, the event was a celebration of the power of imagination and innovation of Saudi communities to enjoy and examine their creations of its sons, daughters, friends and peers.
The goal of FABLAB is to support the Kingdom’s creative and productive culture by encouraging students to discover the joy of making. Throughout August its Summer Program has provided participants with hands-on training sessions.
Three program categories were created for middle school, high school and college students; each program session was designed to cater to a certain age group of three to five participants per group. The main goal was to complete 24 products that have a positive impact on society and to exhibit them at the program’s final ceremony.
Ideas were bounced about FABLAB-Dhahran as students came together during their scheduled session to design and create a prototype in three days. During the first day, students received a comprehensive training session to prepare them for the fabrication process in the days to follow.
Ruba Al-Assaf, volunteer and leader of a university-level group, was pleased with her team’s enthusiasm and diligence. “We were nervous at first because we had a lot of pieces,” said Al-Assaf. “We had to understand the nuts and bolts of making a 3D printer — quite literally.”
Knowing that their products needed to benefit society added to the pressure. This was especially true for Nada Al- Mansouri, graduate of Arab Open University, who had always wanted to provide more creative solutions for her community. Al-Mansouri said that with simple digital circuits, solar cells and rechargeable batteries, her team was able to make a phone charger that uses solar energy. “We can use the natural resources that we have to come up with the products that we need,” she said.
Mohammed Al-Senwar, FABLAB-Dhahran’s director, applauded the efforts of the students in designing and creating their own prototypes. “We have grown too comfortable in our lifestyles, and it has made it difficult for people to find the incentive to make something when they can simply buy it from the nearest store,” he said during the closing ceremony of the summer program.
Another aspect of the creative process is failure, said university-level group leader Motheeb Al-Khashram. “You can’t expect everything you make to work,” he said. “Sure, seeing results is what ultimately brings people back to the prototyping table, but at the end of the day, you have to believe that your failures are bringing you one step closer to success.”
As the ceremony came to an end, 16-year-old Manal Al-Yahya tried not to fiddle with the smart table she had built with her team. This simple prototype design set off blinking lights to alert users when their laptop overheats. “I’m glad I had the opportunity to join this program,” she said as she poked the wooden pieces that she hammered together the previous night. “I really enjoyed working with my hands and will definitely keep pursuing these programs to expand my knowledge and create more.”