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History of the ME Firm

Spanning the Arab world

We’ve been in the Middle East for so long that we’re practically a part of its history.

The Deloitte network that today spans thousands of miles throughout the Arab world began life in a single rented room in the Salameh Building, Jaffa Road, Jerusalem. Fuad S. Saba, “FSS” for short, founded the company that bore his name on August 18, 1926 after qualifying as Associate of the Corporation of Accountants. He became an accountant, according to his son, Suhail, because “all his friends were engineers, lawyers and doctors and he wanted to be different”. FSS soon proved how different he was.

Vigorous expansion of Saba & Co. as long ago as the 1940s saw the opening of offices in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Kuwait. In 1948 the head office was transferred to Beirut.

Alongside the geographic enlargement, which continued in the succeeding decades, came a broadening of the firm’s skills and services. In addition to independent public accounting, FSS introduced auditing, tax consultation, arbitrations and specializations in specific industries.

To back up the wider range of services, Saba launched formal and regular training schools to ensure that clients received the high standards of professionalism that were a hallmark of the firm.

The clients appreciated that too. When Abdel-Hameed Shoman founded the Arab Bank Ltd. in 1930 he insisted on the appointment of an Arab licensed auditor. Almost three-fourths of a century later, Saba & Co, now a part of the Deloitte partnership, is still engaged by the bank.

The link between Saba & Co and Deloitte was forged in 1978 when Suhail Saba decided, long before globalization became a buzzword, to take advantage of the international muscle it could bring while retaining much greater local autonomy than would have been possible if it retained its ties to Arthur Andersen. It also provided the opportunity to satisfy a growing need for management consultancy.

Appropriately, attention to detail and careful accounting played a part even in the talks between Saba & Co. and Touche Ross International (TRI), later to become Deloitte.

TRI managing partner Russell Palmer was quoted a figure of $20,000 a day to provide million-dollar insurance cover each for himself and two colleagues while visiting Beirut to discuss details of the new arrangement. Considering this excessive even though there were ongoing hostilities at the time, Palmer shopped around and paid Lloyds of London $1,400 to insure all three of them for the whole stay.

The rest is not just history but the beginning of Deloitte’s contribution to the growth and economic welfare of the Middle East.

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