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Turkish banks: Sugar, sea and Ataturk’s bequest

The original owners of Turkey’s banks can be seen from their names. Seker means sugar, Deniz means sea and Ziraat means farming. So Sekerbank was originally owned by the sugar-beet cooperatives, Denizbank was originally owned by fishermen’s cooperatives and Ziraat was founded by a pasha in the Ottoman Empire to provide loans for farmers.

Vakif means foundation and Vakifbank is owned by a group of publicly owned charitable foundations that were set up at the founding of the republic in 1923 to house many of the assets from the failed Ottoman regime. Indeed there are now 11,000 such assets under the control of GDF and thus Vakifbank.

Perhaps most intriguing is Isbank, the biggest state-owned bank. Some 28% of its shares are designated as Ataturk’s shares. These were the shares that belonged to the founder of the Republic, who was instrumental in setting up Isbank. On his death he willed them to his political party, the CHP (which is now in opposition). However he stipulated that the party could have only the voting rights, while the dividends were to go to two charities, the Turkish Language Institute and the Turkish Historical Society. According to Isbank reports, between 2003 and 2009 the bank paid out TL2.15

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