The Business Year

Riad Salamé

Governor, Banque Du Liban

The Lebanese Central Bank, like other central banks around the world, has a mandate to ensure stability. Based on this mandate, the central bank has worked, often by anticipation, to maintain a high level of reserves. That has proven to be the right approach because of Lebanon’s political—and therefore economic and social—volatility. This is especially true with the Syrian war and its implications for Lebanon in terms of the high number of refugees, the economic slowdown, and the resulting difficulties in exporting and attracting consumers from the Gulf. Given this atmosphere, Banque Du Liban has continuously introduced tools to fulfill its objective. The central bank will shift to a conventional approach when it feels things are in order. That will be determined when it sees what happens with the budget deficit on the one side and with the implementation of CEDRE on the other, because if we want a productive economy, we need infrastructure. We cannot predict an outlook given the volatility of the region. However, Lebanon has shown resiliency because the country has lived through wars and internal security issues and has continued to perform despite all that. Any good news could trigger more growth in the country.

Freddie Baz

Vice-Chairman of the Board and Group Strategy Director, Bank Audi

Beyond its size, strong regional footprint, wide diversification, and universal banking offering, which positions the group at the forefront of Lebanese banking sector and among the top-20 Arab banking institutions, Bank Audi enjoys a number of additional visible competitive edges. The sustained growth and reinforcement of its financial flexibility over the past decades bears witness to a solid risk governance coupled with best corporate governance and compliance practices as well as an insightful management vision supported by a clear strategy. The bank also has implemented best practices in the realm of corporate social responsibility while having one of the best disclosure and transparency practices in the region. Bank Audi is a management-driven institution, which relies on a pool of qualified staff, 87% of whom are university graduates and whose main purpose is providing a dedicated service to all customers. Yet, what continuously differentiates Bank Audi is its willingness to always innovate and advance. The international community, in particular rating agencies, has acknowledged all these competitive advantages. The group’s main purpose remains to achieve quality growth by efficiently meeting the needs of both businesses and individuals in the various countries in which we are present and ensuring long-term sustainable value to all stakeholders.

Joseph Torbey

President, Joseph Torbey

The formation of the new government constitutes an important milestone in the restoration of consumer and investor confidence in Lebanon and is vital for the country’s decision-making processes, the proper functioning of its institutions, and the implementation of the necessary reform measures, paving the way for unlocking the pledged funds during the CEDRE conference. The effective execution of the pledged reforms, along with tangible progress in the oil and gas sector and the adoption of other initiatives to boost economic growth and mend the country’s ailing public finances, will lead to an era of economic prosperity, which would include all sectors of the economy, including the banking sector. In fact, banks’ operating environment would undoubtedly improve, with the pressure caused by heightened political and economic uncertainties gradually dissipating and lending opportunities blooming. Nonetheless, such a rosy canvas can only see the light if the government effectively honors its commitments to the pledged reforms, which could even prompt international rating agencies to reconsider their recent rating actions on Lebanon. Without these reforms, the risks and challenges that have been plaguing the Lebanese economy and its banking sector throughout the past year will most likely prevail.

Farid Chedid

Chairman & Group CEO, Chedid Capital

In September 2018, we celebrated 20 years for the first company in the group, Chedid Re. We started as a reinsurance broker and soon became a major player in the region. In the last few years, Chedid Re has become the largest reinsurance broker in MENA and one of the top 20 in the world. In June 2015, we were registered as a Lloyd’s broker—an important accomplishment and a seal of approval to our longstanding collaboration with Lloyd’s. Aside from the reinsurance business, in 2010 we launched our insurance business and insurance brokerage business, developing them along the regional footprint of Chedid Re. International diversification is key to success, as the best strategy for expansion comes from providing regional solutions to economies of scale. Our group today comprises 45 countries, from Pakistan to the UK, and employs over 500 people. We provide reinsurance solutions for all lines of business across the whole region, counting on a highly qualified team in all sectors, from legal to economists, engineers, or actuaries. The insurance brokerage side is focused on the Gulf, Levant region, Mauritius— a recently opened location from which we cover East Africa—as well as supporting our clients wherever they develop through our network and alliances.

Gretchen M. Biery

Head of Lebanon Office, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

EBRD promotes the development of the private sector and entrepreneurial initiative in 38 economies across three continents. EBRD investments are aimed at making economies in their respective regions competitive, inclusive, well governed, green, resilient, and integrated. In 2018, EBRD financed 395 projects worth a total of EUR9.5 billion. The bank is well on its way to meeting a target of 40% of its annual investments to the green economy by 2020, up from its present share of 36%. Lebanon is EBRD’s newest country of operation. Interestingly, EBRD’s arrival in Lebanon coincided with a rather critical timing, both politically and economically, as the country faces macro and fiscal challenges that necessitate reforms. This is an important period for the Lebanese people and Lebanon’s economy. The country is facing macro and fiscal challenges that necessitate reforms. This would ultimately allow Lebanon’s high-capacity private sector to grow and help the people of Lebanon who have been greatly impacted by a period of slow economic growth. We have come at the right time. We will focus on the private sector, but we see a useful role for our institution helping the government with core infrastructure to provide lasting benefits to the country.



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