By Hossam Mounir
This year marks the 95th anniversary of the establishment of the first Egyptian bank to be created solely with Egyptian money, Banque Misr, by the economist Talaat Harb.
The idea behind the bank’s foundation started at the beginning of the 20th century, when Talaat Harb proposed the idea of founding a national bank in a newspaper article published on 1 October 1907. In the article, he demanded that Egypt should be for Egyptians, and called for establishing the bank to invest the country’s wealth and meet the needs of Egyptians.
In April 1911, Harb presented research on the issue in the first Egyptian conference, with some points proposed to establish for all Egyptians a “nation’s bank”. At the end of the conference, it was decided that Harb would travel to Europe to study the idea, and conduct a comparative study on national banks and how they operate in European countries.
In November 1911, he published a book entitled “The Economic Cure for Egypt and an Egyptian Bank Project or National Bank”. The book was popular amongst Egyptians, but the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 stalled the idea in the book.
However, the outburst of the 1919 revolution pushed Harb to re-introduce the idea. The British Occupation, however, doubted the project’s value and Egyptians’ readiness to implement it.
Despite facing derision and having to fight against the British financial adviser, Talaat Harb convinced 126 Egyptians to subscribe to shares to establish the bank. The shares for the bank’s capital reached EGP 80,000, and a private agreement was signed to establish the bank on 8 March 1920. A sultan’s decree was issued, granting the licence for founding a joint venture company under the name “Banque Misr” on 13 April 1920.
On 7 May 1920, at the bank’s opening, Harb announced the bank’s vision which was to use Egyptians’ money for the economic benefit of the country. The bank’s operations would be in Arabic, and would rely on Egyptians for facilitating its operations and managing the work, with the ability to make use of the foreign experts as technical consultants.
The foundation also included encouraging different economic projects to benefit the country, preserving depositors’ money and using it in guaranteed, safe projects. The bank would also offer financial services to its clients with convenient prices.
On 25 November 1920, the bank was opened to the public in downtown Cairo. However, the bank’s plans for expansion pushed it to build its headquarters in another area to absorb the different activities and increase the volume of business and clients. The bank’s headquarters was established at 151 Mohamed Farid Street, and was opened in June 1927.
The bank chairman is now Mohamed Eletreby, who took the position at the start of the year. Twelve prominent figures managed the bank since its establishment: Ahmed Medhat (1920-1940); Hafez Afify (1940-1951); Abdel Maksoud Ahmed (1951-1955); Abdel Hamid El Sherif (1955-1955); Hamdy Roshdy (1955-1969); Ahmed Fouad (1969-1984); Mohamed Nabil Ibrahim (1984-1987); Mahmoud Mohamed Mahmoud (1987-1990); Mohamed Ali Hafez (1990-1993); Essam El Din El Ahmady (1993-1999); Bahaa El Din Helmy Ismail (1999-2002); and Mohamed Kamal El Din Barakat (2002-2014).
Since the bank’s establishment, Talaat Pasha and his colleagues were keen on industrial and economic development, and established a number of companies complementing each other in different economic activities.
The bank now owns shares in 172 projects, the most prominent of which are in financial economic sectors, industrial, tourist, real estate, agricultural, food, and public service sectors. There are also projects in communications and information technology.
Banque Misr offers a variety of services that meet all the needs of the clients and investors, whether individuals or companies, in line with the market changes and the modern banking system. There are 12,500 workers in the bank, who serve more than 7 million clients in Egypt. The total paid capital is estimated at EGP 15bn.
The bank has more than 500 branches and banking units across Egypt, as well as maintaining a presence in the UAE, Lebanon, Paris, and Frankfurt.