Photo was taken during my London trip in 2007.
Arab Bank plc
Arab Bank’s founder Abdel Hameed Shoman was born in a Palestinian village just outside of Jerusalem in 1890. In 1910, he emigrated to the United States to seek a better life. Even though he eventually became the owner of a garment factory in New York, he decided to return to Palestine to launch a modern bank in the Arab world. In 1930, Mr. Shoman founded the Arab Bank in Jerusalem, then still within the British Mandate of Palestine.
The British Mandate of Palestine was created in 1922 following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire when World War I ended. It soon became the centre of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Officially, the objective of the various British and French Mandates in the Middle East was to stabilize the region until such time when they could become independent political jurisdictions. In reality, even though the Palestinian Arabs constituted a 90% majority of the population at the beginning of the Palestinian Mandate, they were only ambiguously referred to as “non-Jewish communities”. And while the Arabs had the same civil and religious rights as the Jews, the Jews enjoyed specific national and political rights through the Jewish Agency, which was officially recognized by the League of Nations (predecessor of the United Nations). On the other hand, the majority Palestinian Arab population had no representative government of their own, and was only represented by the British government.
Feeling that they were second-class citizens in their own land, the Arabs began to attack the Jewish communities and soon the Jews counter-attacked. The skirmishes became increasingly frequent and violent during the 1930s and 1940s and some Arab and Jewish groups were officially labelled as terrorist organizations.
Several proposals to partition Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state failed. In May 1948, just prior to the expiry of the British Mandate, the State of Israel declared independence and was immediately recognized by the United States and Soviet Union. The conflict then escalated to the turbulent Arab-Israeli War. During this time, Arab Bank lost its branches in Jaffa and Haifa, as both cities became part of the new Israeli state. The Haifa branch was relocated to Beirut in Lebanon, while the Jaffa branch was moved to Nablus and later Ramallah. Before long, Arab Bank also withdrew its headquarters from Jerusalem to Amman and re-established itself as a Jordanian-based public joint-stock bank.
During the 1950s Arab Bank expanded its network to 43 branches in the Arab world. In the 1960s, however, Arab Bank entered a devastating period as its branches were nationalized across the region. The bank’s Egyptian and Syrian operations were nationalized in 1961, followed by Iraq (1964), Aden (1969), and Sudan and Libya (1970). More branches were shut in 1967 when the West Bank and Gaza Strip were lost to Israel following the brief Six-Day War.
At the same time though, Arab Bank sought expansion outside of the Middle East beginning with the establishment of Arab Bank Switzerland in 1962. In the 1970s Arab Bank renewed its international expansion efforts and initially focused on the emerging oil economies in the Persian Gulf. The bank then established branches in London, Frankfurt, New York, Australia and Singapore.
Following the signing of the Oslo Peace Accord in 1993, Arab Bank re-established branches in several Palestinian communities. The bank also expanded into larger-scale industrial and infrastructure financing, as well as investment banking for the first time.
In 2005, Arab Bank resumed operations in Syria after a gap of 44 years. In 2006, the bank reorganized its European operations into the London-based Europe Arab Bank.
Today Arab Bank has over 500 branches in 30 countries (accurate as of 2010).
- In 2006, Arab Bank bought 50% of a small Turkish bank named MNG Bank. MNG Bank had 11 branches. In 2007, MNG changed its name to Turkland Bank, or T-Bank as its trading name.
- Also in 2006, the bank acquired 50% of Al Nisr Al Arabi Insurance Co. in Jordan to launch its insurance products.
- In 2008, Arab Bank won an auction to buy 19% of Libya's Wahda Bank for Eur 210-million. Wahda was Libya's second largest private-sector bank and had Eur 1.7-billion of assets and 71 branches. Arab Bank had the option to eventually raise its stake in the Libyan bank to 51%.
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