Life After Chase: Fawzi Malouf

Teaching Credit in Beirut

The following article is reprinted from Align, a publication of the American University in Beirut's Suliman S. Olayan School of Business.  Comments that may be of more interest to CAA members than readers of Align are added in bracketed italics.

Born and educated in Berlin, Fawzi Malouf began his career at Chase in 1966 in Beirut.  By the time he moved to Cairo in 1996, to run the American Express Bank's Middle East Area Credit operations, Malouf had worked in the credit area for Chase in Riyadh, Bahrain, Seoul, Hong Kong and New York.

ComingFull Circle

By Emily CraigheadAbuAtieh

As a banker for Chase Manhattan Bank and later with American Express, Mr. Fawzi Malouf is no stranger to worldwide work experience.  Now as the Executive in Residence, Mr. Malouf blends his indispensable day-to-day, “real world” corporate experience with academic frameworks to provide business students with a well-rounded business education at the Olayan School of Business (OSB).

Early in his experience as a credit officer, Mr. Malouf encountered the fact that in order to achieve maximum efficacy there needed to be a balance between risk analysts and marketers: “There were guys that could sell, really 
sell, and there were guys that could analyze risk well. Instead of getting rid of one of them, we realized that we needed both because each person had a different strength.”  It was then the trend in multinational banks to split the responsibilities between marketing and analysis, and Mr. Malouf over time grew to be very skilled in risk analysis.  His work took him on a tour of the globe, spending years in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, Asia, Africa, and New York City.

Every few years, he and his colleagues were strategically moved around “like chess figures, like diplomats are,” and he was shifted into new positions, new geographies, and with those changes came new bosses and new colleagues.  While the constant repositioning provided him with unique cultural and occupational experiences, he also found that every few years he had to learn how to live life again in a new culture: not only did he have to find a new doctor, but he also had to find the shop from which he would buy hardware.

It was while working for Chase that Mr. Malouf recognized that university education worldwide did not prepare new hires in credit and risk analysis, and as a result, employees needed to be trained from scratch, which is always a time and money-consuming process.  Mr. Malouf thought, “One day when I retire, I’ll go to a university and make sure students learn this stuff before
they are hired.”  This gap in educational preparation, the failure to recognize that “risk” needed to be addressed in business school curriculum, had dire consequences for the business world.  “Without knowledge of risk analysis, this is how economies are ruined,” Mr. Malouf remarked.

After retiring from his professional work as a risk manager, Mr. Malouf was determined to keep his vision alive; he walked into Dean Najjar’s office and asked directly to teach risk analysis.  Mr. Malouf was particularly interested to teach different types of risk, approaches to risk analysis, and especially problem solving in risk analysis because, as he stated, one only recognizes risk if one goes through the process of how risk works.  He was interested to teach not just a profession, but to teach students— potential employees in the business world — how to think.  Dean Najjar agreed to a one-year contract and made Mr. Malouf an Executive in Residence.  “I had never even heard the term ‘Executive in Residence’ before!” Mr. Malouf laughed.  “I didn’t know what that meant!”  And for the past nine years, Mr. Malouf has taught coursesin credit and risk analysis at OSB.  Passionate about his subject, he is careful to distinguish between risk analysis and risk management, because “risk management is only something to deal with once you know what the risk is.”  ["My training class was February 1975 for 14 months. I use excerpts from what we learned then and add what we worked out later over the years. Of course, what students love to hear is where we went wrong and why."]

Mr. Malouf finds it extremely important that business schools hire executives from the business world to be a part of their staff because those executives who are in the trenches of the day-to-day business world are the ones encountering new problems and are the ones finding new solutions; this kind of experience is incredibly valuable and cannot only be hypothetically taught in a classroom setting.  A mixture of both academics and executives ensures that both academic and practical research stays alive. Mr. Malouf desires for his students to build on and improve on his own experiences, and he hopes that his own students will realize that “what Malouf taught them in class is not the end-all of business or even the end-all of risk analysis.”  Mr. Malouf encourages his students to choose jobs that will not only train them, but will also give them worldwide experience and that will engage their minds in more than what they have been taught: in short, jobs that will change their lives.

When asked about why he chose OSB as the school at which to teach, Mr. Malouf replied that Lebanon is his original country, that he already had an apartment in Beirut, and that he was “itchy” about not having a job lined up after retiring.  After discussing their options, he and his wife decided they would give Lebanon a try.  They returned to their apartment that had been empty for 30 years, in an apartment complex built on land that they purchased with other Chase Manhattan colleagues back in the 1970s. Even now, some of those same friends live in the apartment complex withthem.
  ["As an additional benefit, Chase gave the employees a low-interest mortgage loan in the seventies. Some of us joined to build and own, rather than buy a condo. Because Chase moved me overseas, I had never lived in my flat until we came back in 2000. Those former colleagues who are still in the building are Elie Wakim, whose prime residence is Geneva, George and Ghina Haddad (both Chase) and Leila Koudim who was the branch manager's secretary."]

Mr. Malouf is in his ninth year as the Executive in Residence at OSB, his “ninth and last year.”  Though the past nine years with OSB have been constant, much unlike his years with multinational banks, Mr. Malouf says that it is time to move onto something new.  He now has over 800 graduates in the field all over the Middle East, a prospective 800 graduates who will build upon what he has taught them.  He took this job to do something productive, to pass on knowledge, and Mr. Malouf feels that he has accomplished what he set out to do.  Mr. Malouf characterized his time at OSB as a “great experience” and mentioned how much he has enjoyed working with young people.  When asked what his next step might be, he replied with a smile, “not sure,” and joked that his wife is getting a little nervous that he soon might be without something constructive to do with his time.