Mr. Tarek El Saied is the Head of Legal of Abu Dhabi Islamic
Bank (ADIB) with over 30 years of experience in banking
Can you give us a brief on your career?
I graduated from the Faculty of Law at Ain Shams University in 1983. In the same year, I started working in Misr Iran Development Bank (MIDB) until 1990, followed by Burgan bank in Kuwait for five months. However, due to the war at the time, I transferred back to MIDB for a few years before I was affiliated again with Burgan bank in 1994 until 1996. Once more, I joined MIDB in ’96, but by ’98, I started working in Mobinil as a legal manager
for two years. My association with the Commercial International Bank (CIB) began in 2000 as a legal manager. By 2007, my experience had led me to become deputy legal head at
BLOM bank in Egypt up till 2010. During that time, the bank had purchased Misr Romanian bank. From 2010 to 2014, I worked at the National Bank of Greece (NBG) as head of the legal department. Currently, it is an honour to be working at ADIB bank under the same position.
ADIB is considered as a company, or more specifically as a joint stock company. Thus, as head of the legal department for ADIB bank, can you explain the legal framework of a financial company?
ADIB bank is a large joint stock company in the United Arab Emirates. In the past, however, it was a group of banks established by president Anwar El Sadat in the 1980s. By the ‘90s, they were merged together to become the National Development Bank. Unfortunately, at that time, the banking field faced a financial crisis that led to its collapse. This encouraged many foreign investors to enter the financial market. In 2007, there was a proposition to sell the National Development Bank. This was finalised in 2008, as ADIB concluded a deal with the Egyptian government to buy the bank. The deal was finalised further, as the ADIB administration came in contact with the administration of the Central Bank, and the General authority for investments and free zones.
As an expert in the banking field, is there a difference between a lawyer who works in a bank, and one who works in a law firm?
In my opinion, there is not a major difference between them, seeing as they both have common legal grounds. Nevertheless, there is still a critical point that needs to be addressed. A banking lawyer in a financial organisation requires a flexible mentality when dealing with a client, a credit client, and investors. This facilitates the process of understanding any problems they may be facing, as well as provide them with quick solutions, and professional service to secure the bank’s financial transactions with them.
As you mentioned, ADIB bank was originally a National Development Bank; can you inform us of the permissions required for establishing a financial business in Egypt?
Generally, it is extremely difficult to initiate a business in Egypt due to the excessively long processing of the government’s administration. To operate a financial company, the permissions need to be obtained from several authorities. Thus, authorization must be acquired from the Egyptian Central Bank, and the General Authority for investments and free zones. Although, it is important to understand that this operation comes with various risks. To exemplify, great losses occurred for the National Development Bank resulting in major disputes.
The headquarters of the ADIB loaned the branch in Cairo capital to start the business. It covered the losses of the bank, and developed its own business in Egypt.
Seeing as you are the head of the legal department in one of the biggest banks in Egypt, can you outline the legal issues a bank might face?
Unfortunately, financial operations suffer from various issues. It ranges from the regulations controlling the operation as a whole, to the management of the administration, and to several other situations. For instance, the weak management in the last financial crisis resulted due to incorrect decisions taken by the administration. Honestly, however, there are several foreign factors that may create complications in the market beyond human control.
As an in-house banking lawyer, what is the difference between your department and a specialized law firm?
My experience in the field caused me to become mindful of any quandary. With that in mind, I have to state that it is not easy for a lawyer to resolve a client’s problem. Therefore, it is important for them to also assume responsibility. Nevertheless, overall, the difference resides in the fact that a banking lawyer’s suggestion is not imperative to the bank’s administration, compared to a specialised law firm.
Can we say that there is no assistance from any specialized law firm?
Definitely no. There are some cases where specialised firms provide their assistance. Nonetheless, the bank has a policy that favours it to be self-sufficient, hence limiting the amount of transactions being made with law firms.
What kind of support do you need as manager to develop your employees?
To be a manager, one needs to have leadership skills, and one of those skills is showing support to your co-workers. Doing so will cause the department to develop more quickly and easily. In addition, creating this type of atmosphere will also help the employees master their skills.
How many lawyers do you have in the legal department, and how do you distribute the work between them?
In the past, before I became the head of the legal department, there were a number of lawyers in the department. Regrettably, most of their efforts were not recognised by the bank. After my promotion, I started to decrease the number of lawyers in order to match the needs of the bank. In regards to dividing the work, we have small sections in the department that facilitates their duties, and increases their productivity.