Revealed: Top 5 most powerful Arabs in finance
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Revealed: Top 5 most powerful Arabs in finance

Revealed: Top 5 most powerful Arabs in finance

The highest ranking entries from the world of finance in Gulf Business’ annual Arab power list 2020


A total of 21 entries in Gulf Business’ annual list of the Top 100 Most Powerful Arabs in 2020 operate in the finance sector, which ranked as the second most prominent industry.

The majority of the entries on the list manage a diversified portfolio spanning multiple industries, the ranking found.

Of the top five finance veterans on this year’s Powerful Arabs list, four hail from the GCC.

Also read: Revealed: Top 5 most powerful Arabs in the UAE

1. Joseph Safra

Chairman, Safra Group

Sector: Finance

Overall rank: 4

2019 rank: 5

Often called the “world’s richest banker”, Joseph Safra leads Brazilian banking and investment giant Safra Group – acting as chairman of all Safra companies.

The descendant of a banking family from Syria, he owns Brazil’s eighth largest bank Banco Safra and J. Safra Sarasin in Switzerland and has an estimated net worth of around $25bn.

One setback for the billionaire last year came after the London mayor overturned an earlier approval for the Safra group’s proposed 1,000-foot ‘Tulip’ skyscraper in the city, next to the iconic ‘Gherkin’ tower, which the Safra group also owns.

Sadiq Khan said the tower did not ’represent world-class architecture’.

2. HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud

Chairman, Kingdom Holding Company

Sector: Finance

Overall rank: 9

2019 rank: 8

Reported to be one of the key local investors that Saudi Aramco tapped when it listed in Riyadh, Prince Alwaleed has maintained a relatively low profile in the past year. Following his detention in late 2017, he admitted that there was some “confusion” in the market and promised last year to reveal more details on the terms of his release.

In the meantime, his Kingdom Holding Company is exploring IPO or REIT options for its $1.1bn real estate portfolio. The company also bought 4.76 million shares in US ride-hailing company Lyft and through its stake in Careem, now also has a share in Uber.

3. Lubna Suliman Olayan

Chairperson, Saudi British Bank

Sector: Finance

Overall rank: 11

2019 rank: 20

Arguably the region’s most influential businesswoman, Lubna Olayan broke another record last year when she became the first woman to chair a listed Saudi bank.

She was appointed to the role following the merger of Saudi British Bank (SABB) and Alawwal Bank to create the kingdom’s third biggest lender. Active in promoting workplace opportunities for women in the kingdom, Olayan has long been at the forefront of breaking stereotypes, becoming the first woman to join the board of a Saudi publicly listed company – Alawwal Bank – in 2004.

Having served as the CEO of Olayan Financing Company for over 35 years, she currently chairs the board of Olayan Saudi Holding Company.


4. Mohammed Ibrahim Al Shaibani

Executive director and CEO, Investment Corporation of Dubai

Sector: Finance

Overall rank: 13

2019 rank: 11

Despite current economic challenges, Al Shaibani steered the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD) to post a 4.4 per cent year-on-year rise in net profit to Dhs10.5bn in the first half of 2019, although revenues dropped 7.7 per cent. The organisation has holdings in major Dubai entities including ENOC, Emirates Group, Emirates NBD and Emaar Properties.

As well as heading the investment arm of Dubai, Al Shaibani also serves as the director general of the Dubai Ruler’s Court, chairman of Dubai Islamic Bank, vice chairman of the Supreme Fiscal Committee of Dubai, and deputy chairman of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Last month, he was also appointed as the chairman of Nakheel, the developer behind the Palm Jumeirah.

5. Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair

Chairman, Mashreq

Sector: Finance

Overall rank: 15

2019 rank: 9

A prominent player in the UAE’s banking industry, Al Ghurair was elected to become the chairman of Mashreq in 2019, relinquishing his role as the bank’s CEO – a post he held for over three decades. Still at the helm, he is spearheading the lender’s digital transformation.

Currently serving as the chairman of the UAE Banks Federation, Al Ghurair has also become an important figure for philanthropy in the Arab world. A $27m refugee education fund that he set up in 2018 recently announced a Dhs25m grant for 10,000 young refugees.

Also read: Revealed: Top 5 most powerful Arabs in Saudi Arabia

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