A Saudi money exchanger counts Saudi riyals in Riyadh
There has been a tremendous increase in the total value of personal loans extended by Saudi local banks in recent years. It shot up nearly 20 times within the last 13 years reaching SR219 billion in 2011 from SR11
billion in 1998, according to a report in Al-Eqtisadiah business daily.
This was mainly attributed to a huge increase in the number of banking customers and their reliance on local lenders to meet most of their personal requirements. Subsequently, almost all local banks have expanded their base of personal lending substantially even without taking into account the solvency of customers. Several financial and legal experts warned customers against relying heavily on banks to meet their financial requirements but most of them ignore such warnings.
Earlier, the number of customers who took out personal bank loans was very limited. In 1998, the volume of personal loans extended by local banks was merely SR11.2 billion. However it jumped three times to SR38.4 billion in 2001. The total value of personal loans was SR178.4 billion and SR198.8 billion in 2007 and 2010 respectively.
During Q3, 2011, the volume of personal loans extended by banks rose to SR218.9 billion. These included SR27.7 billion for real estate financing, SR46.2 billion for financing purchase of vehicles and equipment, and SR144.8 billion for other purposes, while credit card loans account for SR8.65 billion.
The huge increase in personal loans attributed mainly to the remarkable growth in the number of bank customers in recent years and their increased dependence on banks to meet most of their financial requirements. A number of Saudi financial and legal experts recently noted that Saudi banks had adopted a more cautious approach while extending personal loans in the past. Before 2000, the local banks concentrated mainly in extending loans only to companies and firms rather than individuals.
However, now the situation has been changed tremendously and almost all banks are competing each other to exploit this situation and resorting to the practice of receiving personal loan repayments directly from the salaries of borrowers. This practice served as a motivation for local banks to extend more personal loans to employees without taking into account their solvency.
The Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) introduced regulations for consumer financing and made them binding for the local banks effective Jan. 1, 2006. Banks are able to solve all the problems related to personal loans following the regulations issued by the central bank. There was also a SAMA directive that allows banks to treat the salaries of borrowers as security if they take out personal loans. This has helped banks to expand their base of personal lending substantially.
Some financial experts stressed that consumers must take utmost care and caution while taking personal loans so as not to affect their solvency as well as to prevent them from falling into a debt trap. They noted that consumers should take loans only if they are sure that they can make their prompt repayment. Loans be taken to fulfill only basic needs and not for any unnecessary requirements. There should be precise calculations and well thought out planning before taking loans, and there should not be any hasty decisions to take a loan. Precaution is to be taken against taking loans from illegal and unauthorized financial firms so as to avert becoming victims of fraudulent means and cheating.
Also, the monthly amount of repayment must be affordable to the consumer. There should also be proper balance between spending, borrowing and savings of the consumer. The consumer must have obtained all the relevant information with regard to the terms and conditions of borrowing and be fully aware of his ability to make repayments without affecting his solvency. The experts also cautioned against the habit of taking personal loans at regular intervals.