Lebanon's FFA Private Bank teams up with Ankura

11 August 2020 Consultancy-me.com

FFA Private Bank, a Lebanese bank specialised in capital markets and wealth management, has teamed up with global management consultancy Ankura to launch a new offering for the country’s under pressure banking industry.

The new proposition is launched at a time of historic crisis in the country. Having already been hit by an economic crisis – its worst in decades – and a healthcare crisis, the Beirut explosion on August the 4th unleashed another major crisis: a humanitarian one, alongside an escalating political crisis. Enraged by the lack of support provided by the government and the incompetence of officials, the Lebanese have turned to mass protests to pressure politicians to exit their posts. 

Much of the dissatisfaction has its roots in the economic crisis (see McKinsey’s report for a synopsis), for which the financial system has a large part to play. Once the bedrock of the stable and prosperous Lebanese economy, financial services institutions – in particular banks – are now seen as the achilles heel of the economy. With the business scene crumbling, banks are facing rapidly growing non-performing loans and asset risks on their balance sheets. 

Meanwhile, banks have a huge image problem. Some banks have for instance been accused of illegally supporting a major exodus of capital abroad despite measures in place that inhibited Lebanese people from transferring their money. To make matters worse in the eyes of the people, while there is an urgent need for capital to survive (and for some to rebuild following the blast), banks across the republic have upheld strict capital controls that limit people’s access to their funds.

Lebanon's FFA Private Bank teams up with Ankura

Against this backdrop, banks themselves are in “great need of expertise” to stay afloat and successfully navigate the crisis, said Jean Riachi, who founded FFA Private Bank twenty-six years ago in Lebanon’s capital Beirut. Under his leadership, the bank has grown into one of the leading, specialised investment banks in the region – in 2018 the Lebanese bank was named the ‘Best Private Bank in the Middle East’ by Banker Middle East magazine. 

“While many Lebanese commercial banks still enjoy fundamental strengths despite the current crisis, they will need to adapt to the new operating environment. It is vital that they have access to expert resources that can help them develop and evaluate strategies designed to help them make informed decisions and realising winning strategies,” he said. 

Bringing a deep understanding of the Lebanese financial sector to the table, FFA Private Bank has partnered with Ankura to add functional skills such as turnaround, restructuring, forensic accounting, finance transformation, risk & compliance, due diligence and financial advisory to the mix. “Such expertise is foundational to support response and strategic repositioning of financial institutions,” said Riachi.

Together, the two parties provide a “unique suite of advisory and consulting services localised to the Lebanese market,” added Riachi, who graduated from HEC Paris business school in the 1980s. 

Simon Michaels, a leader at Ankura, said the consulting firm is looking forward to offer its capabilities in what is currently one of the world’s most watched countries.

For the US-headquartered consultancy, the partnership in Lebanon comes shortly after it closed two acquisitions in North America; that of Water Street Partners and of UnitedLex’s cybersecurity practice

In related news, last month the Lebanese government hired a trio of leading management consulting firms to audit the country’s embattled central bank.