Binbasgil pilots Akbank through Turkey’s turbulence

Eric Ellis
Published on:

Hakan Binbasgil has built Akbank into one of the most impressive financial institutions in the emerging markets. Can he keep the bank on track?

It is mid-afternoon in Buenos Aires on Friday, July 15, and half a world away from his base in Istanbul, Akbank’s chief executive Hakan Binbasgil is preparing to return home after a few weeks in South America on vacation. Binbasgil has been Akbank CEO since 2012, and after four years of 12 hour days building what the stock market now values as Turkey’s biggest bank, he felt he deserved this rare Eid break.

The last year was particularly tough for Turkish bankers, operating in one of the world’s most turbulent regions, dealing with the economic consequences of the terror attack at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport only three weeks earlier, the civil war in neighbouring Syria, Ankara’s diplomatic brawl with Moscow, which crippled Turkish trade and tourism, and the burden of millions of refugees and migrants descending on Turkey en route to Europe.

It had also...