Executive is in New York. As we embark on our 2013 mission to engage the successful and influential Lebanese diaspora in order to relay their stories, inspire hope and propose solutions to the country’s numerous challenges, we are meeting with some of the biggest Lebanese names in global finance for a special feature in April’s magazine.
Running up and down Madison and Park Avenue, we are engaging Lebanese financial executives in debates to understand how they made it to the Big Apple and what advice they have to Lebanese graduates kicking off their careers.
See also: The Lebanese Empire
“I would love to see Lebanon becoming a center for capital markets in the Middle East. You have all the ingredients in place except for the political and regulatory landscape,” says Beirut-born Anwar Zakkour, vice chairman of JP Morgan investment banking, as he explains what he would like to see from his home country. “There are lots of expatriates who would love to see it happen and who would love to invest in something like this but for some reason or another, we never see it flourish.”
With roots in Bcharre, Habib Kairouz, managing partner at venture capital firm Rho Capital Partners, says convincing talented young Lebanese not to emigrate is key to the country’s development. “I don’t want to encourage people to follow my path as I want people to stay in Lebanon. Through every organization I am involved with, such as Endeavor [a non-profit nongovernmental organization that supports high-impact entrepreneurs in emerging markets] and LIFE [Lebanese International Financial Executives], I work to convince people to stay,” he says. “But if my son was graduating from a college in Lebanon today, could I consciously tell him to put his career path in Lebanon? It’s a tough one.”
We are also aiming to address what the expatriate community want to see in terms of reforms before they would consider returning and deploying further capital in their home country. “Lebanon is in dire need of public service and of people giving back to make their country a better place. But look at the confessional system, we still have to appoint each person based on their sect,” says Marc Malek, founder of alternative asset management firm Conquest Capital. “If I decide tomorrow I want to shut everything I have here, go back and live in Lebanon, dedicate my life to public service and do it for free, I won’t be allowed because I am from a minority Christian sect, Syriac orthodox.”
As we reach out to the expatriate community, we strive to contribute to the advancement of the country by inspiring the Lebanese youth, putting forward alternative solutions critical to Lebanon’s current investment climate and reviving faith that a better future is possible.