MEAB in zero tolerance stand on black market

MEAB Bank stands out among Lebanese financial institutions for its integrity, reliability and potential for international expansion. It has a solid footing in its native country and is looking abroad for further growth and profitability


Established in 1993, MEAB Bank has proudly forged solid and lasting relationships with its corporate customers in Lebanon and abroad. With branches covering the south of Lebanon as well as Beirut and the suburbs, MEAB is opening two new branches yearly to spread its presence in all Lebanese regions. In addition, under the leadership of its chairman Kassem Hejeij, the bank is extending its reach internationally in the US, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Mr Hejeij, the board of directors and the senior management insist on upholding the highest standards of banking. Unfortunately, this level of professionalism and care is not always standard procedure everywhere in the Middle East. But MEAB strictly applies the corporate governance directives and guidelines that it has set for itself and also works closely with PricewaterhouseCoopers and its internal audit department to maintain all banking regulations to the letter.

In particular, MEAB s.a.l., under the specific direction of Mr Hejeij, complies with all applicable laws and regulations regarding the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. Specifically, MEAB has created and periodically updates a programme that keeps bank employees and management up to date with the latest requirements.

MEAB keeps a constant look-out for funds that might originate from prohibited sources. It has as one of its standing committees the Compliance and Anti-Money-Laundering Committee, which is among the bank’s most active and serious units. Even a hint of funds from suspicious sources must be reported to higher-ups in the bank as well as to its audit and legal teams.

MEAB declares publicly that it does things right in this regard or not at all. Transparency, diligent oversight and deeply entrenched systems of compliance are among its self-described benchmarks of success.

MEAB Bank is a forward-looking, dynamic bank that is managed by a team of professional private, commercial and corporate bankers.

Commercial banking
As part of its commercial banking operations, it offers competitive rates of return on local and foreign currency deposits. It also provides what it calls One Window banking to its customers covering foreign, trade and credit facilities. In addition, it also offers project financing of various types and amounts.

MEAB Bank is well known for its private banking. Its private banking department brings international equity markets virtually to its customers’ doorsteps. Its private bankers offer personal portfolio management, brokerage and advisory services and currency transaction assistance. Its staff is carefully trained to handle each of these types of transactions discreetly, efficiently and scrupulously within the bounds of all international laws and regulations.

In addition, MEAB Bank is famous as a friendly consumer bank. Its services range from credit card issuances to personal loans and from personal safe deposit boxes to evening banking. MEAB is a local bank on top of all its international aspirations.

With this firm grasp of honest and open banking in Lebanon, it is now considering expansion of services abroad. It has been careful to select its partners as it makes this move. As a result, MEAB bank has built very strong relationships with the correspondent banks, mainly in Europe, the United States and Arab countries.

Growing network
MEAB boasts correspondent banks in London, Geneva, Frankfurt, Paris, Qatar, Vienna, Brussels, Milan, Barcelona, Dubai, Cairo, Riyadh, Istanbul, Baghdad, Sydney, Rome, Madrid, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Winston-Salem, N.C., in the US.

No matter where it goes, however, it keeps quality of service and high banking standards as core values. With products and services designed around the needs of its customers, MEAB has become a market leader in delivering value and convenience and, in the process, has won the trust and confidence of those who bank with it – in Lebanon and, increasingly, around the world.

Its staff is well trained to provide professional advice and will continue to lead the way with new and improved products and services to meet the changing needs of its customers.

It provides all types of loans and is ready to direct and help customers through its corporate credit officers and private banking executives.MEAB’s financial results give reason for confidence to customers wherever they might be.

Between 2010 and 2011, its total assets grew by a third. The balance sheet shows an increase in the total assets mainly in cash, balances with the Central Bank, bank and financial institutions due to the increase of customers’ deposits by 38 percent. This resulted because the bank opened two new branches. What’s more, an increase in capital was recorded during 2011.

Investment securities showed a negative variation of two percent, which is due to the bank’s internal policy to reclassify some financial instruments at amortised cost to fair value, which decreased in the cumulative charges in fair value and the increase of the retained earnings.

Its profits have continued to grow even as other banks around the globe have suffered during the financial struggles in recent years.

Between 2010 and 2011, its total assets rose by 34 percent. Its net interest income posted an uptick of 29 percent. And its net profits over the same period increased by three percent. Its net operating income rose by five percent.

These results are part of a long chain of positive results going back two decades. They are not a fit of whimsy. On the contrary, MEAB Bank’s results are audited by outsiders and carefully reported annually. The usually upward charts and graphs that represent its earnings and balance sheet reports have become familiar sights to those who follow banking in Beirut and throughout the Middle East.

The bank has chosen several times during its long history to remake itself for the better. These changes have kept it current and modern when other bankers have faltered.

In particular, refinements to its risk structure and its internal governance have been added regularly through the years. Best practices of the kind familiar to Western financial institutions have been imposed thanks to the accounting firms and renowned consultants that have been employed through the years.

Chairman Hejeij has taken personal interest in each of these advancements. He has layered senior management with highly educated – and extremely competent – experts in their fields. The reason is obvious to anyone who knows Beirut and Lebanon. The Hejeij family has gained a deserved reputation for integrity in its public dealings and its name is synonymous with excellence and transparency.

Indeed, MEAB Bank is owned and operated by one of the Middle East’s most prominent and responsible families. The Hejeij family dates back 300 years to the Bekaa Valley. A few generations ago, the family migrated to their current location, about 100 kilometers south of Beirut. Hassan Hejeij originally left Lebanon and built a large construction business in Africa in which he was later joined by his brother Kassem Hejeij. MEAB was formed to tend to the matters of the commercial business and the Hejeij family has been very generous in providing employment and other opportunities for the people of the village of Deir Intar (which means in English “Huge Monastery”). Kassem has been the mayor of the town and he is consistently re-elected with about 65 percent of the popular vote.

The villagers know what the banking community is now beginning to see – that the Hejeij clan can be trusted to provide first-rate financial services. Lebanese citizens have taken advantage of and greatly benefited from these services for two decades. Soon, many other parts of the world may also get to see what the Hejeij family can do for them.

Correspondent banks are on the verge of increasing in number and size. Projects financed by MEAB Bank may soon proliferate. The gem of Beirut is about to sparkle elsewhere in the world.

Jeff Birnbaum discusses how MEAB Bank modernises internal governance here.