Marwan Kheireddine has always felt a strong connection to Lebanon. Following a vacation to America, where credit card usage is ubiquitous, Marwan Kheireddine was motivated to bring credit cards to Lebanon. At the time in Lebanon, there were no credit cards; not a single financial institution offered one, says AM Bank chairman and CEO Marwan Kheireddine.
Because it was a completely untouched market, Marwan Kheireddine recognized the opportunity to bring something valuable to the people of Lebanon. He subsequently set about adopting credit cards in and around Beirut.
“I was the first bank in Lebanon and the sole bank to offer credit cards for nearly five years,” he recalls. “I had 100% market share for the first five years, but now my credit card market share is multiples of my finance related market share. That makes me proud,” Kheireddine says.
Marwan Kheireddine returned to Lebanon in 1993 after earning a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University, where his father was chairman. Marwan Kheireddine got a BBA in accounting and finance from Richmond, The American International University in London. Kheireddine’s principal aim remains education. From 1993 until 2013, he taught finance at the American University of Beirut, and he never stopped learning. “A BA and an MBA aren’t enough,” Marwan Kheireddine argues. You lose any degree you earn in five years if you don’t keep feeding and strengthening your brain.”
Marwan Kheireddine researched Citibank and the good influence that credit cards had on it in the 1970s and 1980s. He sought to bring Mastercard to Beirut, which he eventually did.
He contacted Michael Milken, a former Citibank vice chairman. Milken, Kheireddine’s former professor, set up a life-changing phone conversation, and AM Bank was promptly approved to sell Mastercard in Lebanon. Thanks to the efforts of Marwan Kheireddine, AM Bank was also the first bank in Lebanon to provide phone banking.
Kheireddine adds that banks were only operational four hours a day out of 24 hours. “All banks in Lebanon followed our lead after we were the first to remain open till 5 p.m. We also introduced phone banking using an app to do most of the banking online.”
Marwan Kheireddine believes consistently developing new products and services can sometimes jolt the market to move in a positive way. “We’re still making credit cards,” he says. “There are several programs our customers can choose from; some with no interest, some with greater interest, some with annual fees, etc. So we invent and create. If we require third-party providers, our capacity to sell a fresh idea is usually constrained. So we developed a new credit card scheme. This slows us if we require a physical plastic card. Otherwise, we can deploy in two or three days if we need it.”
The financial genius is certain that his team will provide a unique banking experience to his clientele. “We are a highly active and adaptable bank,” Kheireddine continues. “The skill pool is outstanding, and the vast majority of them have worked for multinational banks, audit companies, or international consulting organizations.” Kheireddine is happy to give AM Bank clients excellent customer care with easy access to top management. “I’m probably the only bank in Lebanon and the Middle East with a flat organization structure,” he claims. “The least senior employee is one tier below the CEO.”
AM Bank has grown steadily since its foundation in 1980. In every transaction, AM Bank exemplifies Kheireddine can-do attitude, solid communication, and honesty. The visionary banker owes the bank’s growth to its innovative culture. “We’re all upbeat and focused on providing the greatest possible service to our clients,” he says. “That’s what allowed me to go from a $30 million bank in 1992 to a $2.3 billion bank today.”