Al Arab's CIB grows against the grain

Chris Wright
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The bank – along with Egypt – has been on nothing short of a rollercoaster ride for the past four years. It has been exciting and scary, says CEO Hisham Ezz Al Arab, but the worst is very much in the past. How did the bank survive? And what is it looking forward to?

Hisham Ezz Al Arab

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Behind Hisham Ezz Al Arab’s desk at the Commercial International Bank headquarters in Giza, among the usual paraphernalia of flags and family photos and portentous front pages of Time magazine, is an unusual picture. It’s a man with his back to the lens holding an axe across his shoulders, with the title: 'PREPARATION’. Beneath it is a message: 'If you have a day to chop down a tree, spend half a day sharpening the axe.’

Al Arab, chairman and managing director of Egypt’s biggest private-sector bank since 2002, likes the image because it’s somewhat un Egyptian. Lately, in particular, preparation hasn’t really been the watchword in Egypt, so much as action, sometimes without fully thinking through the consequences. Since uprisings began against president Hosni Mubarak in January 2011, the country has undergone two separate revolutions, the trials and...