CEE architects of transition: Ilhami Koç
Ilhami Koç started his career at Isbank in 1986. He was chief executive of Iş Private Equity between 2001 and 2002, before returning to Is Investment as chief executive in 2002. Since November 2016, he has been chief executive of Turkish insurer Anadolu Sigorta.
As a student in Ankara in the 1980s, Ilhami Koç was planning a career as a diplomat. A female friend wanted to apply for a job in Isbank’s auditing department, so he accompanied her to the bank’s headquarters to pick up an application form.
“They said: ‘I’m sorry but we don’t hire women as auditors,’” he says. “She got angry and the situation was getting tense, so to calm things down I said I’d take a form.”
As it turned out, the Isbank graduate exams were similar to those for the foreign ministry, so Koç decided to sit them for practice. One was in accountancy, a subject of which he knew nothing, so he did not expect to pass.
To his astonishment, he made it through to the next round. “Apparently the accountancy exam that year was so hard that only one person passed, so they cancelled it!” he says.