CFI.co Meets the CEO and Chairman of FFA Private Bank: Jean Riachi

Jean Riachi

How would you describe your upbringing and career path?

I was born and raised in Lebanon but I left the country during the civil war to study in Paris. In 1985, I graduated from HEC (Paris) with an MSc in Management (Major in Finance) and started my career with Vivendi (formerly known as CGE) in Paris as an assistant to the head of Treasury. Later, in 1988, I joined the Duménil-Leblé Bank as head of Money and Bond Markets. From 1990 to 1993, I was part of the small team who started La Banque du Louvre, a private bank eventually acquired by HSBC Group.

In 1993, going back to my home country became an obsession. Moreover, I always dreamed about being an entrepreneur; by founding FFA in Lebanon, I made both dreams come true. The company started with one million US dollars: my own money plus two of the three “Fs” – family and friends. Most people thought I was the third “F”: the fool who had left behind a promising career for a crazy venture in an unstable country.

I founded FFA in 1994 as a brokerage firm and transformed it throughout the years from a financial institution into a leading specialised bank offering a full range of private banking and investment banking services in Lebanon.

How could a small brokerage in Lebanon become a leading regional private bank?

Since it was established, back in 1994, and in spite of years of very highly volatile political and economic environments, locally, regionally, and internationally, FFA Private Bank Group has witnessed continuous growth in its client base and activity. FFA has become a leader in private banking and corporate and investment banking in the MENA region, covering areas such as capital markets, asset management, real estate development management, corporate and investment banking, and online training in addition to a wide range of additional banking and advisory services to cater to all its clients’ needs. All these developments and the bank’s steady growth could not have occurred without strong standards and discipline. In a relatively short number of years, FFA Private Bank pursued a path in which it uses foresight to face challenges and seize opportunities at the right time and with the right skills and resources to ensure long term growth.

This could have been achieved only by investing in cutting edge technology and by recruiting the finest professionals who feel that their role contributes directly to the group’s success. As the group’s CEO, I insist on them sharing my desire to put the client first and realise that the bank’s very reason for being is to serve clients intelligently and professionally. As such, skills and talents are not merely enough. FFA Private Bank is in continuous search for people who are committed to the highest standards, have an understanding of ethics, and a dedication for principles.

What is your approach to corporate governance, risk and compliance?

I am an entrepreneur but I believe that banking is first and foremost about managing all kind of risks. Operating from Dubai (DIFC) as well as from Beirut, FFA Private Bank has achieved this expansion without compromising the bank’s conservative approach to management. As a certified director from INSEAD’s IDP program, I believe in adequate corporate governance practices and that strict compliance with local and international rules and regulations have to be an integral part of the bank’s culture. Moreover, our focus on risk management, control, and compliance gave the bank a cutting edge advantage over its peers, especially during the financial crisis years. They represent key pillars in safeguarding the bank’s assets as well as the interests of its clients.


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