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Modern Middle East Bank shows there is no escape from sanctions list

“What I’m trying to do,” says Parviz Aghili, “is to set up a bank that is accustomed with what is going on around the world.”

That institution is Middle East Bank, the newest in Iran and, until very recently, one not on any sanction list. Aghili’s role models are international rather than Iranian. “I’ve set up proper corporate governance here, risk management, corporate compliance. And I’ve mostly hired youngsters who have had no background in state-owned banks. The average age here is 27 and we’re bringing them up in the way things are done in banking outside of Iran.” Aghili is no fan of the way things are done in Iran, and is in a strong position to judge, having worked in the Iranian banking sector for many years. He fondly recalls the old days when he would rub shoulders with Chase, Bank of America, Citi, ABN Amro and many other foreigners who held offices in Tehran, many of them staffed by Iranians who had been educated overseas. “The banking system was really up to the level of international banking then.”

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