As a responsible investor and market leader in Bahrain’s financial sector, SICO constantly works to align its strategy with environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. As the momentum towards sustainable investments builds worldwide, we are committed to becoming a more sustainable organization in every sense of the word. Accordingly, we work every day to incorporate sound sustainable practices into our day-to-day operations. We are and have always been an equal opportunity employer with a diverse workforce and a culture that promotes the empowerment of women, and increasingly account for ESG considerations across our investments and business decisions.
SICO takes pride in being an ethical organization that believes “how profits are made” is just as important as “How much profits are made”. We seek to ensure that we are creating value not just for our shareholders, but for all of our stakeholders, including our clients, partners, employees, and the community at large.
We have worked to align our core values and principles with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our initiatives have been particularly focused on the following SDGs.
SICO has always been a firm believer that quality education for all is a key driver of economic growth and prosperity. Since its inception, the bank has sponsored multiple worthwhile education and career development initiatives in cooperation with the Bahrain Bourse, the CFA Society, the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF).
Each year, a large number of young Bahrainis graduate from local and international institutions and enter the job market. For many the competitive landscape can be daunting, which is why SICO also strives to help new graduates enhance their career prospects through a number of initiatives that focus on building leadership skills and improving financial literacy.
Since 2016, SICO has been a sponsor of a specialized trading simulation course given by the BIBF titled ‘Bank Management Simulation’. The 2019 edition of the course was attended by 12 students from the University of Bahrain and Bahrain Polytechnic. It covered a number of topics and provided students with practical tools such as how to analyze stock market data and manage an equity and bond portfolio. SICO organized a workshop for local media entities, in collaboration with the Bahraini CFA Society, on the analysis of financial statements and the impact of pressing issues in capital markets on company performance. The workshop was attended by 12 media personnel from all local media outlets in Bahrain.
As part of its partnership with CFA Society Bahrain, SICO sponsored and participated in the Society’s Career Day 2019. The event included a full day of skills building workshops hosted by industry professionals covering a broad range of topics related to the job market in Bahrain’s financial sector. The bank also sponsored a number of additional CFA Bahrain initiatives such as Mutamahin and the Research Challenge, which featured three mentors from SICO to guide participants. The society also held mock exams to assist CFA candidates acquire the certification and held an award ceremony for candidates, both of which were sponsored by SICO.
The bank also regularly sponsors some of Bahrain’s flagship educational programs including the Al Mabarrah Al Khalifia Foundation and the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program (CPISP). SICO began its cooperation with CPISP in 2006 and has since provided support for 160 scholars. SICO also runs ongoing internship and executive training programs to give young university graduates and students the opportunity to experience careers in finance. In 2019, the bank fully financed an Accounting and Finance scholarship for a student to attend Bangor University at Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance.
TradeQuest is a simulated business-education partnership program that focuses on investment trading in world financial markets, which operated for the first time in the Kingdom of Bahrain in 1997, in cooperation with financial institutions and educational parties. The program has received great support from various banks and financial institutions throughout the past 21 years. TradeQuest aims to stimulating relevant learning through realistic experience by teaching the rules and regulations implemented in financial markets, analyzing and selecting shares, and managing a portfolio of investment instruments listed at New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Bahrain Bourse. The 2019-2020 TradeQuest program featured a total of 19 school teams, including both public and private schools. Four mentors from SICO’s staff participated in the program, each volunteering 16 hours where they offered guidance to the participants.
SICO is committed not only to ensuring that its operations have no adverse impact on the environment but also to raising awareness and promoting sustainable business practices across its surrounding community to preserve the environment. In 2018, SICO launched an internal Go Green initiative to raise awareness within the bank on practices that both the bank and our employees can adopt to reduce our carbon footprint.
SICO has adopted a number of measures throughout our operations to minimize our environmental impact. We provide our employees with personalized reusable glass water bottles to reduce the use of single-use plastics throughout the company. We have also changed default settings on all printers across the bank to black and white and double-sided printing in order to reduce our paper and ink consumption, thereby reducing both paper and electronic waste. We also encourage employees to turn off monitors, lights, and other electronic equipment at the end of the day and have instructed them to close applications on their computers when not in use to reduce energy consumption.
In December 2019, SICO held a company-wide no-print day in line with its efforts to minimize its environmental footprint. The day was a massive success, with a decrease in printing rates by 95%, from approximately 300 pages daily to just 15 pages on the day. Additionally, SICO’s efforts to be more mindful of our power consumption throughout the year successfully resulted in a 22% decrease y-o-y.
Financial institutions worldwide are keen to integrate innovative technology solutions into their day- to-day operations in order to revolutionize the way that they interact with clients, offering them leading solutions and promoting digitalization across the industry. Bahrain is currently fast emerging as a regional leader in the fintech space with a number of growing local players. SICO is proud to have partnered with Fintech Bay, a versatile technology incubator that offers entrepreneurs a dedicated co-working space featuring state-of-the-art meeting rooms, innovation labs, acceleration programs, and educational opportunities.
SICO is also a key sponsor of Bahrain’s CFA society, a non-profit organization established by the CFA Institute in 2006. The society contributes to the development of local capital markets and the professional skills of its members through educational initiatives, volunteer opportunities, and networking events.
SICO’s CEO, Najla Al-Shirawi, also participated in the opening panel of the 44th annual Inter-Arab Cambist Association in Bahrain where she addressed the current paradigm shift playing out across GCC markets.
SICO’s Client Relationship department acts as a direct liaison between the bank and its clients. The team consists of a group of knowledgeable and financially literate professionals who work to process requests, answer inquiries and provide guidance to both existing and prospective clients. The department aims to create value for all SICO clients by recognizing and responding to individual needs. Queries and complaints concerning all non-trading issues are attended to promptly and efficiently by highly trained customer service personnel. The department also engages with various business lines within the bank to pass on relevant feedback that they receive directly from their daily interactions with SICO’s clients. Their scope of activities includes opening new brokerage, fixed income, and asset management accounts as well as completing and updating all client forms to ensure full compliance with CBB regulations. In 2019 the team continued to deliver on its mandate to deliver a high degree of customer satisfaction in the most efficient manner possible.
SICO is committed to maintaining the confidentiality, integrity and security of information collected from customers, in accordance with all applicable privacy laws. For the purposes of privacy laws in Bahrain, SICO acts as the ‘Data Manager’ in respect to any personal information received from clients.
SICO’s IT department has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at automating and digitalizing services in order to streamline the bank’s operations, providing clients with a more seamless suite of services. Among the department’s key achievements is the completion of the T24 Core Banking platform upgrade, which allowed for the integration of further systems and functionalities that will serve all of SICO’s business divisions as well as enhance the bank’s client communication and notification system. The department additionally spearheaded the transformation of SICO LIVE, the bank’s online trading platform to integrate more futures and offer users a holistic view of their investment portfolios as well as a number of internal systems to complement the bank’s operations and support functions.
Additionally, SICO’s IT department embarked on a comprehensive assessment of all internal policies, procedures, and systems in order to ensure compliance with global data protection regulations. Based on this assessment, the division provided a number of recommendations to ensure that all bank operations are in compliance with relevant laws.
The division also embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of its cybersecurity framework to align it with international best practices. A new cybersecurity incident management policy was also developed by the division, currently in the implementation phase, to create a standardized response from the bank regarding all security incidents.
SICO believes that its most valuable asset is its people. One of the bank’s biggest competitive advantages over the past 20 years has been its hardworking and loyal team of talented investment professionals who are viewed as partners and active participants in the Bank’s evolving growth story. SICO strives to create a corporate culture that values diversity, teamwork and open communication. We believe that fostering a welcoming professional environment, promoting healthy competition, and rewarding exceptional achievement are key to maintaining employee satisfaction and retention.
The bank is committed to cultivating the talent of our employees through mentorships at all levels within the organization, proper succession planning and promoting from within, as this helps us strengthen institutional memory and ensure the stability of our operations. SICO continues to provide career development opportunities by offering funding for employees to further their education and professional qualifications such as CFA. SICO currently employs 14 CFA holders. The bank also regularly hosts training sessions in order to further build the capacity of its employees and support them in their career progression.
SICO’s HR department launched a new job application function on the company’s corporate website and was a sponsor of the Bahrain CFA Society career day, as part of its commitment to identifying and recruiting fresh talent. The bank also hosts internship and executive training programs to build the capacities of the next generation of graduates seeking careers in the financial services industry. As part of our efforts to increase female representation in the industry, a special emphasis has been placed on attracting female interns particularly in male dominated fields such as IT. In 2019, seven candidates participated in executive training in addition to seven participants in our summer internship program, including one female.
SICO is committed to upholding the highest standards of corporate governance. This entails complying with regulatory requirements, protecting the rights and interests of all stakeholders, enhancing shareholder value, and achieving organizational efficiency. The Bank has Board-approved policies for risk management, compliance and internal controls, in accordance with the rules and guidelines from the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB). SICO’s Board of Directors consists of nine Directors, three of whom are Independent directors, and six are Executive directors, including the Chairman and Vice-Chairman.
SICO has adopted a whistle blowing policy and operates under the supervision of the CBB in compliance with Decree Law No. (4) of 2001 and its amendments (collectively, “the AML Law”) with respect to the Prevention and Prohibition of money laundering. The CBB has adopted and is compliant with the recommendations issued by the Financial Action Task Force (“FATF”), which are the international standard for effective anti-money laundering regimes and the requirements of the Basel committee (Customer Due Diligence for Bank’s paper, that are relevant to conventional bank licensees. The Kingdom of Bahrain is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which is a member of FATF, and also a member of MENAFATF, which is an associate member of FATF.