Tuesday, February 02, 2010

What Would Safra Do?

In my column for Portfolio.com today, I write about one of the more interesting people I've ever met: Edmond Safra, the international banking tycoon and former head of Republic Bank, now part of HSBC.

As I say in the column: Whenever I read about bankers being taken to the woodshed, losing enormous sums of money, or otherwise acting like fools, my thoughts go back to Safra. I think to myself, what would Safra do?

Safra died tragically a decade ago, and what's even more tragic is how bankers have failed to live up to the principles that he applied in his operation of Republic. It's been fifteen years since I profiled Safra for BusinessWeek, and I had almost forgotten some of the things that Safra had told me. One stands out in my mind:

"My father taught me that if you loan a man too much money, you turn a good man into a bad man."

If more bankers acted like Safra, and not like Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls, the banking industry might not be in a gawdawful mess.

© 2010 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.

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