Mervat Zohdy Soltan: An Inspiring Life, Crafted of Sincerity and Passion

Mervat Zohdy Soltan | Chairperson | Export Development Bank of Egypt[Egyptian exports, Egypt banking sector, Trade Finance & Export Promotion department, banking products and services, business leaders, women entrepreneurs]
Mervat Zohdy Soltan | Chairperson | Export Development Bank of Egypt

If you have ever followed people who have made it big in their life, you would know and understand that they started small. Taking baby steps, they were able to reach the destination that they had set out for. Any task management lesson too, focuses on the power of breaking down bigger tasks into smaller objectives and ceaselessly conquer them on the road to success.  

As human beings, achieving success at regular intervals or say after each task that we handled well, acts as an additional motivational factor. It helps us realize that the target is only as big as the smallest part that we break it down to and not a herculean one. Putting into practice this process to achieve success is Mervat Zohdy Soltan, Chairperson, Export Development Bank of Egypt. She further explains, “I always work by objectives; whereby I set goals and objectives & work on achieving them to reach success.”  

A Progressive Growth  

To understand how Mervat reached at the top,  paying keen attention to her journey is essential. As a young girl, she idolized her parents who’ve always been a source of inspiration to her. Her mother, a smart, sociable and kind woman, was a role model. Her father, being an engineer, was very well organized and wise. Mervat tried to acquire the best in both of them and thus dedicates all her achievements and success to them. Another crucial impact on her life was that of her math teacher from high school who taught her how to perform a task at hand with love and passion.  

Mervat earned both her B.A. in Business Administration and M.B.A. from the American University in Cairo in 1983 and 1989 respectively. Her banking career kick-started in 1983 when she began working with the Egyptian Gulf Bank where she worked for the next 7 years. This was followed by 3 years in the corporate world as a Business Development Director. She then joined the United Bank in 1993 as Manager – Foreign Dept. & Treasury.  

Later she joined Bankers Trust Co. in 1995, which was acquired by Deutsche Bank in 1999; progressed to reach Regional Head for Financial Institutions in North Africa & Levant in 2002. She moved to work at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank in 2009; later in the same year, she joined HSBC Dubai as Regional Head for North Africa & Levant Financial Institutions until May 2014. Then, she joined Ahli United Bank (Egypt) in 2015 until she was appointed as Chairperson of the Egyptian Export Development Bank in 2016.  

Currently, she serves as the Chairperson of Export Development Bank (EBE) leading the necessary changes required in spearheading EBE’s role to boost Egyptian Exports in line with the country’s strategy to double its exports by 2020. Furthermore, she was appointed as the Chairperson of Export Credit Guarantee Company of Egypt (ECGE) in October 2018, which is a subsidiary of EBE Bank to complement EBE’s role through Insurance and Factoring offered to exporters.  

More About EBE 

EBE Bank was established in 1983 to boost Egyptian exports and support establishments of industrial, commercial, agricultural and services sectors.  

The Bank plays a vital role in supporting Egyptian exporters and facilitating the access of Egyptian products to markets worldwide. It does so through the extension of export finance and import substitution projects to help improve the local production. This goes along with the bank’s significant role in participating in syndicated loans and equity participation of these projects. The Bank extends its full-fledged financing and banking services to exporters and its entire customer base.  

To pave the way for Egyptian exporters, EBE has built a network of correspondent banks in countries with common interests and economic ties with Egypt; as well as a Trade Finance & Export Promotion department to offer both financial and non-financial solutions. Moreover, the Bank has set up a network of branches throughout Egypt to serve the customers wherever they are based.  

One of the main business lines and activities of the Bank is Corporate Banking and Loan Syndication Activities; which provides the necessary finance for export-oriented and/or import substitution industries, supporting non-export industries financing requirements and securing necessary foreign currency needs. Also, EBE provides necessary finance in the form of loan syndications for various industrial sectors, as well as providing diversified financing packages including long & medium-term loans, short term lending to finance working capital requirements for various economic sectors. 

EBE also provides all types of financing to SMEs as part of the leading role played by the banking sector in supporting SMEs. Additionally, the Bank is keen to obtain customer satisfaction, through providing a wide variety of banking products and services developed with competitive rates such as: time deposits, saving certificates in various currencies and tenors, different types of mutual funds, saving and current accounts, credit, and debit cards, call center as well as e-banking services. 

Passion and People – The Key  

It’s been over three decades that Mervat has been working in the banking sector, achieving one goal after another. What keeps her going is her passion for her family, people, work and Country which she terms as priceless passions.  

Her goals include creating value in every surrounding, and enabling sustainable institutional growth. She believes in self-development and working hard to seek perfection and success. The fact that her passion is translating these goals into measurable achievements is visible with the resultant that EBE Team has been able to triple net profit in less than 3 years. Since she took the reins, the bank has raised fresh capital and improved all of EBE’s financial indicators, creating a good working environment that nurtures talent.  

Another keyword for success, as Mervat puts it, is the power of people. Being a believer in self-development, she never refrains from motivating the employees as and when required and creating a work culture that inspires. She adds, “Motivating the employees started by listening to them and analyzing the situation. Then, I engaged and encouraged everyone to come forward with challenges, ideas, and solutions. Empowering them and in turn asking them to cascade that empowerment to their teams. Communication, transparency, reward based on merit were the main drivers for a better culture.”  

Surpassing Challenges  

Every story has its own set of zenith and nadir. Mervat’s life is no exception. For her, the most remarkable moment, professionally, was when the Central Bank of Egypt decided to choose her to chair the Export Development Bank of Egypt. She recalls, “The nomination and selection were unexpected and non-traditional being the first Chairwoman at an Egyptian Bank. I was truly overwhelmed yet scared because I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to make a success story similar to what I had achieved previously throughout my career.”  

Her latest role also brought along the toughest deal in her career. One of the toughest and most challenging transactions that she had to pull through was related to a large $230 Million trade transaction involving Egypt during the peak of the Arab Spring. At the time, there was no appetite for Egyptian risk by any international bank, but she succeeded to obtain all the necessary credit approvals to conclude the deal.  

Words of Wisdom  

As a banking professional, Mervat understands the dynamics of money and business and has seen many entrepreneurial ventures either flourish or go bankrupt. Her advice, laden with experience, for the entrepreneurs has several significant points. In her advice, she says: 

  • Get your strategy and business plan in place; an idea on its own is not enough. 
  • Second, never give up because you will have to face challenges. 
  • Third, get your financials right. Make sure you have enough cash flow to cover all your obligations. Have the right balance and mix between debt and equity. 
  • Fourth, grow your business to a large scale. Take things gradually at the beginning. Test and then take everything to the next level. 
  • Finally, make sure you are agile enough to cope with all changes as you start your journey to success. 

Life’s Lessons  

Life is a lesson for those who want to learn and improve. All these years, life has been an institution for Mervat, giving her lessons in both her professional and personal life. “I think that foremost and most important is to have the sincerity and the passion in everything we do. Second, hard work pays off. Discipline is a must. Keeping oneself optimistic and motivated even in the toughest time because out of every challenge there is an opportunity. Always have the courage to say you don’t know and learn,” Mervat expresses.  

Focusing on these lessons, help a person grow in all aspects. Everyone is living his or her life, but some lessons transcend individual barriers and serve as a learning for all. Mervat’s story is one full of passion, inspiration, the courage to tread a new path and going outside one’s comfort zone. “I think all these are very important lessons and so many more, but these are truly important. The higher up you go, the more you need to cling to all these lessons” concludes Mervat, reminding us that she takes pride in being a life-long learner. 

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