JEDDAH/RIYADH, Oct 30: An official source at Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) has confirmed to Arab News that the Kingdom’s banks will soon change their working hours. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah ordered the change based on recommendations by the minister of finance, the governor of SAMA and the president of the Capital Market Authority (CMA).
The new hours will be from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and will replace the current two shifts of morning and evening.
The change will address the problem of the different working hours of banks and the stock market; the stock market recently changed to a single trading session. Banks have been given until Nov. 30 to implement the new system. “Banks need time to change their systems and their mechanisms for operating and organizing their employees and schedules,” the source pointed out.
Representatives of all Saudi commercial banks said the decision had been welcomed by their employees.
The bank employees are generally happy with the decision, especially married women who find it difficult in a two shift working day to do their duties at work and at home.
“This new system is good and it will serve a wider section of society because it is more convenient,” said Dina, a bank employee. “With one session from morning to afternoon serving clients will be smoother and easier because it will decrease the pressure during peak hours in the evening when most working women come to the bank. Now, teachers and other public sector employees will have time to come to the bank after finishing work at 2 p.m.,” she said to Arab News.
Private sector employees, however, are not so pleased with the change. “I work from 9 to 5. When am I supposed to go to the bank? It is not always possible to leave work,” complained Rifan Malik. “It is bad enough that with the change in Tadawul trading hours, we cannot be at the bank. Now we cannot take advantage of other bank services,” she added.
She will probably have to use the ATM, the Internet or the phone for trading and other bank services although she is not happy with having no other option.
Some banks might consider extending their working hours to 6 p.m. in order to serve the private sector employees. It is not yet clear whether there will be a change in timing for the banks’ remittance centers from which expatriates send money home.
Expatriates point out that along with banks, private sector establishments should also consider a one-shift system. Such a move would have many benefits. It would give an undeniable boost to Saudization in the private sector since the double shift system is often unappealing to Saudis.
There is also a feeling among many citizens and expatriates that changing the weekend to Friday and Saturday in line with other Gulf states would also boost the Kingdom’s economy.