Walid Niazy: An Appreciation

Walid Niazy: An Appreciation

Walid Niazy, who died in London in late September, was a prominent member of the Arab banking community in London and a founding member of the Arab Bankers Association.

Walid was born into an intellectual Damascene family in 1937. After finishing high school in Damascus in 1954, he attended the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales de Paris. While in Paris, Walid developed an appreciation of jazz and he also met a young British lady, Shirley, whom he married in 1960.

After Walid graduated, he and Shirley returned to Damascus, but in 1963 the young family moved to Philadelphia. By 1969, Walid had received an MBA and also a PhD. (His PhD dissertation examined the economics of the Aswan High Dam.)

Walid then joined Bankers Trust Company in New York while also teaching Economics and International Trade at City University of New York. A few years later, Bankers Trust transferred Walid to Beirut as its regional representative, but when the Lebanese civil war broke out in 1975, he moved to London.

In the early 1980s, Walid joined Gulf International Bank as its London branch manager and in 1985 he joined Capital Trust, spending six years as its Managing Partner. After leaving Capital Trust, he provided financial consulting services to banks and financial institutions in the Middle East and in London.

Walid was among the founding members of the Arab Bankers Association, taking the position of Deputy Secretary General on the Association’s inaugural Executive Committee. He was instrumental in preparing the Association’s Articles of Association and served two consecutive terms on the Board.

Walid is survived by his wife Shirley, his son Karim and daughter Ghalia, and his four grandchildren.

Following Walid’s death, his friends have recalled memories of their time together.

Elie El-Hadj commented: “I met Walid on my first day at the University of Pennsylvania in September 1966 when he was hard at work preparing his PhD dissertation. We were friends for the next 50 years.

After I graduated, Walid and I were living in New York, within a block of each other. We used to have lunch together and explore the city. A few years later, we both found ourselves in London and again we used to meet frequently.

Walid was a true friend and a delight to be with. He was light hearted, quick witted and had a great sense of humour. His analysis of Middle East affairs was always realistic and he enriched any conversation of which he was part. His business conduct was impeccable and his integrity boundless. I do miss him.

 Faisal Qudsi commented: "I met Walid in London in 1976 when he visited me at Arab Bank, one of the three Arab banks that had a branch in London at that time, and the only one that was not government owned.

Over the years, our professional and personal friendship grew stronger through our work to found the Arab Bankers Association – the preparatory work was done in our offices at 7 Old Park Lane towards the end of 1979. Walid, Elie El Hadj and Antoine Zananieri were all involved.

In the mid-1980s, I organized a friendly management buyout of my company ­­– I think it was the first ever management buy-out of an Arab investment banking company – and I invited Walid to become one of the five partners. At that time, there were few Arab bankers with international status and they were being well paid by their banks, so I was very pleased when Walid accepted my offer.

Walid was a banker with huge integrity and he was highly intellectual, sometimes to the detriment of his financial interests. He was a very proud Syrian banker, but also very humble.

I remember we met socially in 2008 and Walid congratulated me on the investments I had made in Syria. But he warned me to be cautious since Syria was still a ‘pre-emerging’ economy. Unfortunately for me, my love for my country over-rode my professional investment judgement and Walid’s advice."

 The Arab Bankers Association extends its condolences to Walid's family and friends.