Yusif Beidas and Lebanon’s Banking Industry

Born in Jerusalem (December 1912), Yusif Beidas began his banking career as a messenger and worked his way up to become one of the top managers at the Arab Bank. However, all of the Bank’s assets were lost during Israel’s creation in 1948. After fleeing to Lebanon with his pregnant wife, he took up Lebanese residency. He then founded and became Chairman of Intra Bank.

According to the April 27, 1962 issue of TIME, “He lured business from competing Beirut banks by cutting loan rates from 9% to 6%. To gain stature for his upstart bank, he convinced Bank of America that it should come into his trade-financing operations, became correspondent for New York’s venerable Chase Manhattan Bank, and opened branches in Syria, Iraq, Qatar and Jordan. In 1958, when near civil war halted Lebanese banking for more than three months and most of his competitors sat brooding over their ill-fortune; Beidas took advantage of the lull to set up a branch in London and an affiliate bank in Geneva.”

A risk-taker, Beidas once said, “Conservative banks belong to the past.” Intra Bank became one of the most successful financial stories in the Middle East. The spectacular success was followed by collapse, sending shockwaves throughout the Middle East. The circumstances surrounding the collapse remain controversial (from heavy investments/low cash holdings to weak support from the Lebanese government).
Beidas was the son of Palestinian intellectual Khalil Beidas, pioneer of the modern Levantine short-story and novel.

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