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Commercial International Bank: Leading Transformation in Turbulent Times Empowering People, Winning With Data

By Randall Peterson


In 2011, Cairo became the cradle of the Egyptian revolution. Transport workers, ambulance drivers and bank employees called for the end of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime. With a backdrop of volatility, Commercial International Bank (CIB), Egypt’s leading private bank, embarked on a major transformation. Hisham Ezz-El Arab, Chairman of CIB, placed customers, employees and shareholders at the heart of everything: his decision to invest in turbulent times went against conventional wisdom. In 2015, he hired Islam Zekry as chief data officer (CDO) to lead a new decision-making support unit. Trust was central. In the Arab region, leaders have power but they must also consult. Data transformation became the main pillar of the bank’s strategy, but Zekry’s team faced obstacles. The data geek squad proposed changes ranging from product offerings to advances in blockchain. In July 2017, CIB was named the ‘World’s Best Bank in the Emerging Markets’ by Euromoney. Still, its challenges were unmatched. More Egyptians were unbanked than banked and the country was dealing with an ailing tourism sector and soaring inflation. The bank’s future success would rely on the combination of data analytics, human capital, leadership and a culture of openness.

Learning objectives

  1. Understand how to shift strategic direction during crisis and lead change in turbulent times.
  2. Understand that in crises organisations need to adapt.
  3. Illustrate that building a culture of openness, trust and psychological safety is hard but has major benefits.
  4. Understand that taking a one-team approach across boundaries such as different functional units drives strategy execution up and down the organisation and supports the implementation process.


Publication Date: January 2018
LBS Case Code: CS-18-004
Subjects: , , , ,
Pages: 36
Format: pdf