Ever since the early 1990s, Lebanese banks have been able to progressively integrate within the global financial system, mainly as a result of a strong compliance culture and a solid legal framework. This compliance to international norms is what makes Lebanese banks serious partners, with high levels of liquidity and world-class financial oversight.
In understanding the impressive evolution, if not resiliency, of the Lebanese banking sector, we take a brief look at the men who made the achievements of the top five banks possible. The banks were chosen in terms of their profits and assets as reported in January 2015 by the Banker and Executive magazines.
1- Raymond Audi – Bank Audi
Raymond Audi founded Bank Audi in 1962 in partnership with his brothers and with prominent Kuwaiti businessmen. Throughout his career, he has been fully invested in developing its services and scope of activities, a commitment that helped propel the bank to a very solid status in the MENA region, with total assets and net profits reaching respectfully USD 42 billion and USD 350 million as of January 2016 .
In a brief public serving interlude, Mr. Audi was appointed Lebanese Minister of the Displaced under the Siniora Government between 2008 and 2009.
2- Saad Azhari – BLOM Bank
Mr. Azhari slowly made his way up the BLOM Bank ladder, starting first at the Switzerland headquarters in 1991 where he was appointed General Manager in 1997. In the following years he was successfully appointed Chairman of BLOMINVEST BANK (1998), BLOM Bank Switzerland (2001), and BLOM Bank Egypt (2005). This upward path culminated in 2007 in his election as Chairman and General Manager of BLOM Bank S.A.L.
His guidance since 2007 has allowed BLOM Bank to develop business operations based on a universal banking mode, with a consistent track record of solid performances. As of January 2016, BLOM Bank’s total assets and net profits amounted respectfully to USD 29 billion and USD 400 million.
3- Francois Bassil – Byblos Bank
Chairman and General Manager of the bank from July 1979 to July 2015, Francois Semaan Bassil is currently Chairman of the Byblos Bank Group . Under his successful guidance, Byblos Bank developed from a locally based entity to an international partner listed on the London Stock Exchange , with total assets and net profits reaching respectfully USD 19.8 billion and USD 160 million as of January 2016 .
Mr. Bassil is the proud holder of many distinctions including the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saint Gregoy the Great awarded by Pope Francis . He has served as Chairman of the Board of the Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) for four two-year terms (1995-2007-2009-2013).
4- Adnan Kassar – Fransabank
Elected at the head of the Beirut Chamber of Commerce and Industry in January 1972, Adnan Kassar presided over the Chamber for nearly thirty years.
In 1999, Mr. Kassar became the first Arab personality to head the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) based in Paris for a two-year term. He was then appointed as Minister of Economy and Trade of the Republic of Lebanon in 2004 and 2005, and Minister of State in the Saad Hariri Governement from 2009 to 2011.
Mr. Kassar and his brother, Adel, acquired Fransabank in 1980 , and are still at the helm of the Fransabank Group which has a consolidated presence in 11 countries, and a network of 124 local branches spread all over Lebanon. As of December 2015, the bank’s assets and net profits respectfully totaled USD 19.5 billion and USD 121 million.
5- Antoun Sehnaoui – SGBL
The youngest in this selection of successful CEOs, Antoun Sehnaoui took over FIDUS, an SGBL financial subsidiary, in January 1999 and quickly turned it into Lebanon’s leading investment firm. Early on, his management expertise made him a clear candidate for the chairmanship of SGBL, a position he acquired in October 2007. Since then, SGBL has enjoyed an unprecedented period of growth and asset consolidation . As of end 2015, SGBL’s total assets and net profits amounted respectfully to USD 16.5 billion and USD 170 million, registering a 10% year-on-year growth.
Aside from being a successful banker, Mr. Sehnaoui is a dynamic investor as well as a passionate art sponsor, with shares in prominent cinema, tourism and hospitality endeavors but also a long-time investment in Executive, the Middle East’s leading English-language business magazine.
Image source: http://www.prnewsonline.com/water-cooler/2014/12/01/7-ways-to-think-like-a-ceo-on-social-media/