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Womani Of The Issue

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SUAD AL BALUSHI

HEAD OF GLOBAL MARKETS DIVISION – BANK NIZWA SULTANATE OF OMAN

There is an old African proverb, I believe in, “If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.” The Sultanate of Oman recognised this truth by providing equal opportunities for both men and women to build and contribute to the nation.

I was one of the brilliant students during my school days and beloved by my teachers. I was usually at the top of my class. In 2001, I was recognised as the best student in the entire school because of my attitude, high academic records and being an enthusiastic participant in extra-curricular activities. I contended and participated in many art exhibitions during my school days and was an active member of the art club. I was also selected several times to represent the school in national art workshops and competitions. I also volunteered my time and skills for social activities in school, like helping and teaching art to young students with special needs.

After school, I got admitted to a top local university, the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), in the College of Economics and Political Sciences. The years I spent at the university were truly memorable and I got on the dean’s honour list. My life and thinking changed positively, as I never imagined that studying business and especially finance could be so much fun. As I was an active member in different clubs and groups, I acquired several soft skills that turned out to be crucial in the work environment. Here, I also learned another lesson, be passionate about what you are doing. After my graduation, in 2005, I joined the largest bank in Oman.

I believe it is important to understand the efforts we have to devote to building our strengths that eventually helps us to overcome our weaknesses. I discovered some of my strengths early in my career, as I learned that I like challenges, paying attention to details and being acquainted with theoretical aspects. This is one of the most important things that I recognised when working with my colleagues at the bank. During my first assignment with the bank, I joined the Treasury and Capital Markets department with great excitement and enthusiasm.

I believe everyone should have at least one mentor. I was blessed with a mentor, who guided me at all times and suggested that I start a professional certification. This was important advice and one that really boosted my knowledge. Therefore, I started preparing for ACI Financial Markets Association certifications.

I successfully passed the ACI Dealing Certificate on the first attempt and got a letter of recognition from the Bank’s COO. This was the first time in the Bank’s history that somebody acquired this certificate in less than a year and on the first attempt. This is why I believe appreciation and recognition is very important for motivation. We should always appreciate the excellent work done by our family, friends, colleagues and co-workers.

Within the same year, I also passed the ACI Operations Certificate with merit and later the ACI Diploma Certificate while doing MBA at SQU, to become the first Omani to complete this professional certification. I was offered other roles at the workplace, owing to my ability and efforts towards gaining knowledge. I was a core member of a knowledge-based club formed by the Bank called BM MINDS Club, which focused on spreading knowledge through lectures by scholars and conducting challenging debates on financial and economic conditions.

I was also selected to be a part of the development centre programme at the Bank that grooms young talents for higher responsibilities. In 2016, the Bank nominated me to participate in the NTI Biz Pro assessment, an extremely rigorous and challenging assessment process. I won the National Training certification. This was important advice and one that really boosted my knowledge. Therefore, I started preparing for ACI Financial Markets Association certifications.

MY LIFE AND THINKING CHANGED POSITIVELY, AS I NEVER IMAGINED THAT STUDYING BUSINESS AND ESPECIALLY FINANCE COULD BE SO MUCH FUN. AS I WAS AN ACTIVE MEMBER IN DIFFERENT CLUBS AND GROUPS, I ACQUIRED SEVERAL SOFT SKILLS THAT TURNED OUT TO BE CRUCIAL IN THE WORK ENVIRONMENT.

Institute-Business Professional Award 2016, which was an annual award to recognise young talents in the private sector. As a result, I got a scholarship to attend a programme at INSEAD.

By the grace of Allah, I won several accolades during my stint with the Bank. I bagged the best painting award via votes and got the ‘Blue Ocean Navigator award for starting a market-making desk for fixed income. Also, I was privileged to be a part of the COO Leadership Program that only 25 out of 4000 staff members from the Bank attended. Through this programme, I got a chance to participate in cross-sectional projects at the Bank.

I was later selected to lead a multimillion-dollar project for the Treasury Department, which was very challenging at the beginning as I had to align the different streams and prioritise the implementation requirements.

We successfully implemented the new treasury system and earned green ratings from our internal audit department due to hard work, dedication and commitment, which was not an easy task for such a project even from the start.

Furthermore, I participated in the Irshad program, a Financial Coaching Clinic as part of the Bank’s CSR initiative, providing financial coaching and guidance to SMEs, startup companies, entrepreneurs and individuals with respect to managing their finances. Being a certified coach, our aim was to provide financial coaching to these groups.

Throughout my career, I have been blessed with wonderful mentors and coaches who guided me, believed in me and helped me take on greater responsibilities. A piece of professional advice I like to share is that one must always focus on acquiring the skillset and knowledge required for the next level because you never know when the next opportunity will come.

I got the opportunity to join Bank Nizwa as the first female Treasurer in the banking sector in Oman. I am also a member of the Oman Banking Association – Treasurers Committee, which acts as a bridge between the banks and the Central Bank of Oman. In the committee, I am the only Islamic Treasurer and this position puts a huge responsibility on us to work and coordinate with other Islamic treasuries to come up with solutions for the challenges faced by Islamic treasuries in Oman. I am also recently awarded the Financial Risk Management certification and now I am FRM Certified.

All of this contributed to my selection in the WOMANi 20 list in 2021; I would like to thank Cambridge IFA for coming up with a platform that recognises influential women in the Islamic financial services industry.

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