BESPOKEN TRUTHS

Lebanon 2018 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Wael El Zein, Chairman & General Manager of Lucid Investment Bank SAL, on contributing to the development of the country, tailoring to the needs of diaspora HNWI, and providing a wide range of bespoke services.

 Wael El Zein
BIOGRAPHY
Wael El Zein is an investment and commercial banker with 30 years of experience in the US, the UK, Lebanon, and the GCC. He holds an MBA from the George Washington University and a BS in Computer Science from the American University of Beirut.

Can you give us a brief history of where Lucid began and where it is today?

Lucid got its start in 2003 in London as a corporate finance house and strategy advisory. We were always focused on providing a one-stop-shop service for high net worth individuals (HNWI) offering investment banking services to their companies and alternative investment management opportunities to address their wealth management needs. Between 2003 and 2011, we worked out of London and Beirut and concluded more than 95 transactions in more than 13 industries. In 2011, we decided to get regulated in Lebanon because of our duty to contribute to the development of our country, the credibility of the Lebanese banking sector, and the richness and affordability of Lebanon's human resources. We started as a financial institution in 2011 and upgraded to an investment bank in 2016.

Who are your main competitors in this space?

We designed Lucid along a blue ocean strategy with a distinct strategic positioning. Our one-stop-shop approach to HNWI and their companies gave us a competitive advantage. All specialized banks are active in some of the services we offer, but our concentrated and personalized service to our clients shielded us from significant competition. Our differentiation from our competitors stems from our private equity engagement. On the corporate side, this entails giving critical assistance in strategy formulation to achieve growth; establish dedicated private equity funds to satisfy the funding needs of small- and medium-sized companies; provides access to global industry specialists to take an active role in the company's management or business partners and financial and/or strategic investors; contributes its corporate finance and advisory skills; introduces the best in class policies and procedures to achieve high standards of governance; and identifies, plans, and executes the best possible exits to maximize value. When it comes to investors and HNWI, Lucid provides access to bespoke deals; represents and protects their interests through private equity fund structures; offers highly transparent investments with each private equity fund dedicated to an investment in a single company; diversifies investors' overall portfolio; and provides higher returns.

What is your vision for the company, and what kind of clients are you going after?

Our deep financial and structural knowledge enable us to design innovative solutions and offer high-quality financial engineering. As such we have already successfully issued several instruments, such as corporate bonds, preference shares, and other mezzanine structures. Our clients are Lebanese HNWI at home and in the diaspora. Our strategy is to increase our reach with these HNWI who are highly sought after by other banks, and thus require a focused approach. To this purpose we are creating a suite of bespoke products.

How are you approaching these high net worth individuals and families?

The approach is extremely personalized on a case-by-case basis, which allows us to gain their trust. Coming from the same environment and having a similar background helps in that respect.

Are you looking to expand your own operations into other markets?

We are fortunate to be maintaining and expanding our excellent relationships in the GCC, Africa, and Europe without the need to have a physical presence in these countries. However an expansion through a second office could be contemplated in the near future.

How do you gauge your success at the end of the year?

Profitability is important, but being in the early stages of our operations as a bank, the main criteria are the quality of our services and customer satisfaction. We are working toward our goal of being recognized by Lebanese HNWI as their investment bank of choice.

What other areas is Lucid looking into?

Part of the new financing schemes in Lebanon will be PPPs, a major and important initiative for the country's recovery. This is important, not only because private money is being channeled into government projects but also because it brings much needed governance, professionalism, and transparency into the country.