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Kuwait’s Gulf Bank: What next for a bank brought back from the brink?

In 2008, Kuwait’s Gulf Bank was near death. Propped up by the state, it underwent repair and a refocus under a new CEO, Michel Accad. Job done, Accad is leaving. Analysts are on the alert for new strategies that undermine his good work.

When Michel Accad announced his resignation from Gulf Bank in October, it signalled that one of the most successful turnarounds in Middle Eastern banking was coming to a conclusion.

Accad oversaw a transformation in a bank that in 2008 would unquestionably have gone under without state support. He leaves it stable, streamlined and well capitalized.

His departure, first covered in Euromoney’s November issue, raises questions too. He says he is leaving because his work is done and it is time for someone else to take on the role of growing the bank. That means a new leader with new ideas, at a time when rating agencies, having upgraded the bank in faith with four years of restructuring, want it to stay as conservative as it is today.

Kuwait’s Gulf Bank was one of the banks in the region worst affected by the global financial crisis. At the heart of its problems were derivative contracts that ran into serious trouble when a client was unable to settle them in October 2008. This would lead to a loss of KD359.5 million ($1.27 billion) in the 2008 financial year, the vast majority of it because of losses on these derivatives and some other loans and investments.

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