Cercle libanais de Luxembourg’s first round-table

23 Février 2016
The first round-table discussion dedicated to wealth management brought together the private banking and insurance communities. (Photo: Cercle libanais de Luxembourg)

On February 18th, the Cercle Libanais de Luxembourg organized its first round-table on building bridges with the MENA region and the way for Luxembourg to remain competitive for MENA clients. The event took place at hotel Le Royal, in the presence of the director general of the CSSF, Mr Claude Marx, delegates from Luxembourg for Finance, LuxFlag, and a number of bankers, lawyers, auditors and other professionals of the financial sector. It was the ideal setting to explore opportunities and challenges to doing business with the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). After a welcome drink, a speech by Michael Chidiac (RealCorp) on behalf of the Cercle Libanais de Luxembourg signalled the start of the evening’s sessions animated by two panels of experts each with its distinct specialism.

The first round-table discussion dedicated to wealth management brought together the private banking and insurance communities who exchanged on a number of topics. Worthy of note were the suggestions to adopt specific country approaches to wealth management that would be tailored to the country of origin of the investor client rather than treating the MENA region as one homogenous geographical area. The panel also highlighted the importance of cultural awareness, confidentiality and flexibility for such a clientele. Sharia compliant bespoke structures for private banking clients were discussed and so were the advantages of the Luxembourg life insurance contract (Panellists: Amine Bechara, director, Bemo Luxembourg; Patrick Casters, head of wealth management international, Bil (excused and replaced by Fouad El-Hajji); Quentin Vercauteren Drubbel, head of wealth management, KBL European Private Bankers SA; Roger Hage, head of Middle East and Africa, BGL BNP Paribas; and Jean Elia, CEO, Sogelife SA). The panel recalled that private banking represents one of the leading activities of the Luxembourg financial centre. Almost every major private bank in Luxembourg has a MENA desk or a branch in the Middle East.

The second panel dedicated to corporate and investment structuring for MENA clients, addressed a variety of topics ranging from the diversification of GCC markets to the use of triangulation in Islamic investments. After setting the scene for the general advantages of the Luxembourg structures and flexible legal and regulatory environment, the panel addressed features of the MENA market (GCC, Turkey, Egypt), Islamic structures and the prospects of an Islamic bank in Luxembourg, before ending with the European Investment Bank's development activity in the MENA markets and the impressive allocation of EUR 18 billion to projects in this region, (Panellists: Jean-Michel Pacaud, partner, Luxembourg AIBD leader, EMEIA Financial Services at Ernst & Young; Anouar Hassoune, managing director, Euris Group; Fouad Rathle, director, Garanti Bank, and former president of the IFBL; and Joyce Liyan, head of unit, mandate policy and development, Mandate Management department at the European Investment Bank). The panellists agreed on the potential that the MENA can offer to professionals from Luxembourg due to the broad investment treaty network with over 70 countries, including an important number of countries from the MENA region. Luxembourg’s offer of structured finance tools together with the support and sponsoring of its authorities, have attracted professionals from the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia.

The event moderated by Jad Nader (counsel at NautaDutilh Avocats Luxembourg) was an exceptional opportunity for professionals working on the MENA region, to exchange information and brainstorm together sharing specific insight into the MENA region as well as knowledge of the dedicated Luxembourg offer. The panellists, all of whom are active on the MENA region, gave an insightful view of the main features of this region, sharing their experiences and putting the emphasis on its characteristics. A promise for a next event soon to follow concluded the debate.