Hafize Gaye Erkan: an Orthodox banker in Ankara

    Hafize Gaye Erkan, new governor of the central bank of Turkey, in Ankara, June 9, 2023.

    Nothing to do: even when the North American journalist of the economic channel Bloomberg Television asks her difficult questions about her professional choices, she keeps an implacable smile, endowed with a seemingly unlimited eloquence. The ease also of a career in the business world which speaks for itself.

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    Hafize Gaye Erkan held senior management positions for several years at Goldman Sachs. She climbed the ranks very high within the First Republic Bank before resigning, a year before its bankruptcy and its takeover in disaster by the giant JP Morgan, on 1er may.

    And now, on June 9, she became, at 44, the first woman to head the central bank of Turkey. An appointment welcomed as it should be by his peers. The recognition and the golds of the Republic. Hafize Gaye Erkan will however need all her interpersonal skills and her know-how to impose her views and restore luster to an institution whose independence has been completely undermined in recent years by the interference and ukases of the omnipresident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The young Turkish-American leader is the fifth governor to hold the post since the start of the economic crisis in 2018.

    “Tough, smart and efficient”

    Born in Istanbul to an engineer mother and a physics and mathematics teacher father, Hafize Gaye Erkan graduated from the prestigious Bosphorus University, top of her class. Also a graduate of the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School. And holds a Ph.D. in Financial Engineering and Operations Research from Princeton University.

    An expert in risk management, she joined the New York bank Goldman Sachs in 2005. Six years later, she was appointed managing director. Two years and she signed for the First Republic Bank, this Californian institution specializing in wealth management. She became the warehouse manager. Its name circulates, the specialized publication American Banker includes it in its list of “most powerful women to watch” of the sector. A relative, quoted by Reuters, and who sits with her on the board of directors of a non-profit organization in New York, will say of her that she is “tough, smart and efficient”.

    In June 2021, she was appointed to the post of co-CEO of the First Republic. For a time, there was even talk of her replacing founding president Jim Herbert. It won’t last. To the surprise of investors, Hafize Gaye Erkan resigned seven months later. The press release does not specify the reasons for this sudden rupture. According to the FinancialTimesthe young manager was allegedly involved in a series of interactions, with other senior managers, described as ” toxic ». This departure allows him in any case to avoid being drawn into the American banking crisis which occurred in March 2022.

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