Volume 20 | issue nº 1 Spring 2018

Success and Giving Back: An Interview with Wissam Moukahal

By Razan Ayoub

More in this issue

LAU speaks with the alum and Forbes Middle East Top-100 Exec

Wissam Moukahal (BA ’95) has been a major player in the finance industry almost since leaving his beloved alma mater, LAU. Today he is not only the executive chairman-MENA for the financial powerhouse Macquarie Capital, but he was also included on the Forbes Middle East list of Top 100 Executives in the Arab World.

LAU spoke to Moukahal about his extraordinary career, his charity work, and what LAU taught him about success. 

How did your time at LAU influence your career?

LAU has and will always play a significant role in my professional development. This great university provided me with remarkable academic and personal experiences both inside and outside of its classrooms. Professors, alumni, staff and students all played a major part in providing me with a truly rounded education and in arming me with the tools and knowledge I needed to navigate the challenges inherent in my profession.

The best days of my youth were spent at LAU in spite of the many challenges that I faced along my academic journey. Today, it is heartwarming for me to see LAU evolve into one of the most prominent educational institutions in the region and to know that somehow I share in its story and success.

What inspired you to create the Z. Moukahal Foundation?

The motivation that drove the creation of the Z. Moukahal Foundation is rooted in a truly personal experience. Early on in my time at LAU, my family passed through severe financial difficulties that threatened my ability to continue my studies. Fortunately, I was able to benefit from the financial aid program at LAU, working an average of 180 hours per semester at the guidance office. My uncle Sami, may his soul rest in peace, and subsequently his sons and daughters represented by my youngest cousin Jihad stepped in to cover the rest of my tuition fees. Had it not been for the support I received from both the university and my family, I would not have been able to earn my bachelor’s degree. Simply put, I would not be where I am today.

The Z. Moukahal Foundation is driven by the desire to give back to Lebanese youth and the society on a larger scale by investing in the education of underprivileged individuals, thus providing them with the skills and support to better their chances of professional success.

Our mission is to nurture the talent and ambitions of underprivileged Lebanese youth and to support the creation of a bright, prosperous and educated Lebanon of tomorrow.

What do you think makes Lebanon’s banking industry stand out in the region?

People, people, people. Lebanese are good bankers by nature. In spite of the turbulent geo-political conditions in the country, the banking industry, driven by a qualified pool of local talent, has managed to stay afloat, time and again.

Do you believe Lebanon can one day style itself as a major financial hub in the Levant, the way Abu Dhabi – the regional HQ of Macquarie Capital – has done with the Gulf?

What Lebanon as a country lacks in stability, we more than make up for in human talent, and this bodes well for the future. Political security notwithstanding, Lebanon has all the key elements required to attract capital and thus position itself as an internationally recognized financial hub.

What advice can you give to LAU students interested in finance to reach the level of success you have achieved?

To think global. The world has become smaller due to globalization and rapid advancements in technology. Unlike during my time at university, students today are competing with international counterparts, so differentiation has never been more important.

What skills have you honed to help you become such a major player in your industry?

An extremely driven person is also one likely to make mistakes. I have often found, in a career that has spanned 22 years of serving clients, that the will to succeed can only bear fruit if leavened with patience. Patience is not only a virtue but can be viewed as a skill as well. To this day, I am still learning how to be more patient by always making a conscious effort to take a step back and allow my endeavors the time needed to reach their full potential.