Who was Edmond J. Safra? “The greatest banker of his generation,” in the estimation of a former World Bank President. The founder of four massive financial institutions on three continents, and a proud child of Beirut’s Jewish quarter. An innovative avatar of financial globalization, and a faithful heir to a tradition of old-world banking. The leading champion and protector of the Sephardic diaspora.
In A Banker’s Journey, financial journalist and historian Daniel Gross, who, like Safra, traces his heritage to Aleppo, Syria, reconstructs the public life of an intensely private man. With exclusive access to Safra’s personal archives, Gross tracks the banker’s remarkable journey from Beirut to Milan, São Paulo, Geneva, and New York—to the pinnacle of global finance.
Edmond Safra was fifteen in 1947, when his father sent him to establish a presence in Milan, Italy. Fluent in six languages, and with an eye for value, managing risk, and personal potential, Safra was in perpetual motion until his tragic death in 1999. The modern, global financial empire he built was based on timeless principles: a banker must protect his depositors and avoid excessive leverage and risk. In an age of busts and bailouts, Safra posted remarkable returns while rarely suffering a credit loss.
From a young age, Safra assumed the mantle of leadership in the Syrian-Lebanese Jewish community, providing personal aid, supporting the communities that formed in exile, and championing Sephardic religious and educational efforts in Israel and around the world.
Edmond J. Safra’s life of achievement in the twentieth century offers enduring lessons for those seeking to make their way in the twenty-first century. He inspired generations to make the world a better place.