Murat Demirel, who received his education and launched his career abroad, is one of Turkey's most important investment bankers. Demirel's CV contains a list of high-level administrative positions served for the most significant banks in investment banking, including Barclays, Citi Group, UBS and Goldman Sachs. Demirel returned to Turkey at the beginning of the year, after living abroad since the age of 11, and he is now continuing his professional career as the director and shareholder of Turkey's biggest equity house Ata Portföy.
There are a number of banks who have been charged in connection to terrorism financing. What are your thoughts on the issue?
"In England that there was a bank account belonging to an organization closely affiliated with the PKK. We said, "Do you know who these people are? We have to close down this account." There was a Dutch national in charge of the organization, who told us that the PKK were 'freedom fighters'. Later, the situation progressed to a point it shouldn't have. They thought we were saying what we did because we are Turks. We said, "We have nothing to do with it." It was completely concerning the bank's reputation. This organization is one that has been officially registered as a terrorist organization. There were 30 million pounds in the account. We did all that we could behind closed doors and in the end shut down the account. This organization is one that has been officially registered as a terrorist organization."
NO ONE WAS AUDITTING
So, you saw this years ago….
"Consider the financial sector as the brain for any type of activity. It is an indispensible sector. For years, the sector was structured in such a way that it had ethical standards that would work to keep itself under control. Okay, there were auditing establishments, however up until these crises exploded; the United States Security and Exchange Commission had only 100 auditors for all of America. Just think, this monster continued to grow… I went into this line of work when the old mentality was prevalent. I saw their ethical perspective. From the 2,000's on it became more ambitious. Those who came on board said I am going to earn more, earn it fast and with more speculation."
Were they more conservative?
"The old financiers had high ethical standards. I had the opportunity of working with them. They were extremely humble people. They left this school behind and the new ones came on. They came at a conjecture where liquidity was unbelievably high and due to technology more complicated products could be designed."
I returned home when I saw an elderly man cry…
What was behind your decision to return to Turkey?
"The Madoff crisis blew up and I witnessed an elderly man sobbing. That's when I decided to return to Turkey. It is not because the bank was bad, but the system became such that the bank has an image. Nothing will happen to them. They sold the bank's image. For years, foreign banks came and went around Turkey saying, we are Credit Suisse, we are Deutsche and we are UBS."
100,000 francs to those who nod their head
Then do they only look at balance sheets?
"There was always and will always be speculation. However, there were also investments. There were capital financiers for the long-term. It is not the same with speculation. That is because from morning to night it's buy-sell and buy-sell. Even those at the top don't consider customers. They look at the money they make. Real company owners don't look at that. I was on the Board of Directors at Switzerland Citibank. There were some who earned 100,000 Swiss francs. They would attend the executive board four times a year and nod their heads. No one ever asked me, "Why do you do this work?" As long as the numbers were good there was no issue."
This is a translation of an article originally written by Barış Ergin.