Roberto Isaias Dassum is one of the 5 children of Estefano Isaias Barquet and Amira Dassum. He was born in Guayaquil – Ecuador in 1944, in a family where the stories told by their grandparents made them dream and develop an entrepreneurial spirit.
Roberto’s grandfather, Mema was born in a small town called Sequiet Eljait, in Lebanon and arrived in Guayaquil in 1912. While giving his name in Arabic at the port, he was registered as Emilio Isaias. A name that the family adopted and is used to this today; it records a history full of values such as: work, perseverance and solidarity. In addition to a fervent Catholic faith and a spirit of incessant struggle.
Emilio and his wife Maria Barquet, began their life in a small town called Catarama where they were farmers and merchants until they began importing top quality textiles. His business vision and his desire to undertake a family project led him to create a large textile factory later on. A venture that left its mark on the country’s commerce and agribusiness. The latter is one of the reasons that prompted some of his children and grandchildren to study in the United States and prepare for the management of the textile factory in Guayaquil.
Emilio Isaías’ vision to grow his business was adopted and passed down to all the new generations, despite the difficult situations that they’ve had to live, they have maintained their effort to raise business organizations in Ecuador, in the United States and in Central America.
The family businesses that the Isaias already had in the United States were conducive for Estefano Isaias, Roberto and William’s father, to send them to study primary education at a boarding school in New York. Thus, the two brothers decided to continue their university studies at the College of Textiles and Sciences of Philadelphia – now the University of Philadelphia – where William Isaias obtained a degree in Textile Engineering in 1964 and Roberto obtained his degree in Textile Management and Marketing in 1965.
Roberto Isaías return to Ecuador to take care of the company EICA (Emilio Isaias Compañía Anónima), a company that his grandfather had started which was a huge warehouse that went on to become a famous fabric factory. Now at the end of the 1960s, it was a consortium that also brought together the importer of textiles, agricultural machinery and construction equipment.
Roberto and his family also achieved at that time, a huge expansion of the company, investing money in real estate in Miami and New York. Later they began to focus on sugar, agribusiness and communication companies, where they invested in broadband network channels, magazines, radio stations, as well as two television channels.
The institution that was born in 1908 was acquired by Pedro Isaias Barquet, Roberto’s uncle in the late 1950s. The family had no tradition in banking, they had focused on trade, textiles, agriculture, exports. But Pedro Isaias, was an innate entrepreneur and bought the majority shareholding of this small bank located in the Buenos Aires city of Guayaquil. For more than 40 years this would be the credit institution chosen by Ecuadorians, and much more, because those who were engaged in industry, agriculture and shrimp farming.
However, the great dreams and endeavors of the Isaias would be marked by a chain of tragic and painful events that occurred between the years 1960 and 1965. Emilio Isaias and his wife Maria Barquet lost 3 of their children at that time.
First Pedro Isaias dies – the main director of the bank – in a fatal aviation accident, when he was traveling to Quito to fulfill a public agenda, as a deputy of the Galapagos Islands.
Then, Enrique Isaias dies in January 1965 in an assault perpetrated at the family’s stores. He had graduated in Economic Sciences, in the USA, and was an honorary Consul of a European country, when he assumed the management of Filanbanco following Pedro’s death.
Later Estefano Isaias – the father of Roberto and William – who was at the time managing the bank, dies in a car accident on a highway in Guayaquil.
Despite the immense pain, Emilio had to keep moving forward; He had a family and orphaned grandchildren to feed as well as big commitments to accomplish. Supported by the bank’s board of directors, he elected Nahim Isaias as the new General Manager of Filantropica. The latter resulted in one of the greatest times of prosperity and growth for the country, the institution and for Ecuadorians.
During this time, Roberto Isaias began to help his uncle Nahim in Filantropica. Together they set as a goal, a whole process of expansion and strengthening of the loan portfolio, to help thousands of entrepreneurs improve and develop the country’s agro-industry. In 1969, the bank had achieved 750% growth.
In the late 1970s, Filantropica begins to be called Filanbanco becoming a symbol of strength and innovation, and even in the face of the constant political and economic conflicts that Ecuador was experiencing, the bank grew and increased its constant support for the country’s economic and social development. Nahim Isaias was not only the most recognized and admired banker, but also, the most loved by the people.
Presidency of the Republic National Bank – Miami
In 1968 the Isaias, with their international vision of business, decided to buy a small and prosperous bank in the United States: Republic National Bank of Miami. The family and the board of directors of the bank, seeing the managerial strength of the Isaias Dassum brothers, named William and his brother Estefano, directors Ad honorem of the institution.
In 1980, Roberto Isaias Dassum assumed the presidency of the board of directors of the Republic National Bank. This presidency is a very important achievement, since before taking care of that presidency, it had to be approved by the United States Comptroller Office of the Currency (OCC), an official organization that is governed by very strict rules, and only granted approvals to a minimum number of foreigners.
The Republic National Bank thus became a financial institution focused on providing service and loans to immigrants who began their projects in the country. It is for this reason that a large part of the Cuban American community and many other Latin Americans, today thank the bank and the Isaiah family for the support they received when they did not yet have the commercial records required by most of the institutions in North America.
Uncle Nahim’s death
In the 80s, the guerrilla incursion threatened the entire country and the Isaias family. The continuous attacks on the banks and multiple kidnappings served to finance the operations of other groups in Colombia and Nicaragua. In 1985, and after several attempts, Nahim was kidnapped by a subversive group called Alfaro Viva Carajo (AVC). After 26 days of keeping him in captivity and demanding a millionaire reward, the guerrillas murdered Nahim Isaias Barquet at the same time that the police forces were attempting a rescue operation.
The Filanbanco Presidency
Despite the immense pain for the Isaias family and for the whole country, the bank had to continue with its operations and Roberto Isaias Dassum was appointed president. This is how he assumed the reins of the bank, and not only followed his uncle’s momentum, but also implemented with his brother William and a management team of high preparation, new credit models, constant training for their workers and the opening of institutions subsidiaries.
Roberto Isaias endeavored to project the bank at an international level, to obtain lines of credit that would give total impetus to agriculture, the shrimp industry and the industrial sector of the country. This approach was recognized by all sectors and strengthened the confidence of the markets to carry out credit operations. The bank’s growth was unstoppable. The momentum of Roberto and his team in all processes was increasingly evident.
Between 1992 and 1995 the institution opened new financial areas: Filanfondos, Casa de Valores Filancasa and Filanbanco Trust based in Panama.
In just 10 years, since Roberto Isaias assumed the presidency of Filanbanco, the institution became the largest in assets and deposits, surpassing all Ecuadorian banks. It already had more than 3,000 direct workers, had 15.8% of the total bank assets in the country and its paid capital reached $ 115 million.
CRISIS IN ECUADOR
Political tragedy – economic
In 1995 the life of Ecuadorians, the economy and the banking situation began to get complicated, somewhat like a tragedy. The impeccable management with Roberto in the presidency, would be threatened by 4 years of misfortunes that would fall on Ecuador, with unimaginable consequences for all:
- Armed conflict with Peru exacerbates fiscal spending and generates unstoppable inflation
- The low investment in the electrical system, results in 8 hours without daily light, and the economy is paralyzed.
- The financial collapse in Asia (1997) closes international investments and credits
- The “White Spot” ends with 90% of the shrimp industry, with exports and the economy of the port, and consequently plunges the payment of credits and international transactions.
- The “El Niño” phenomenon sweeps crops and infrastructure. Farmers stop paying their credits.
- The government with an exaggerated a monetary issue due the lack of liquidity, reacts to international markets, which cut their credit lines.
All of these events, together with the statements of the government that publicly announced that the country was like the Titanic, caused international markets to threaten not to renew credits and demand immediate and full payment of debts.
Filanbanco- December 98
Facing the threat of international banks closing loans and precarious financial situations that the Ecuadorians lived, the management of Filanbanco decides to assume momentarily all the debts of its clients and pay them in full (500 million dollars) and thus remain solvent with more than 200 international banks, with which it maintained credit relations.
Roberto knew, if he didn’t, it would be fatal for the bank, for the clients and for the State itself. They represented 40% of the country’s foreign trade.
He also knew that the momentary liquidity crisis in Filanbanco could be overcome in the short term considering they had everything they needed: solvency, high-value assets, a wide and varied loan portfolio, international support and customer support, for more than 40 years. Everyone asked for some time to recover. Therefore, Filanbanco momentarily needed the support of the State and the help of the Central Bank.
In mid-September 1998, the State responds to Isaias’ request to help Filanbanco, but under annihilating conditions:
- The financial assistance granted was not sufficient to meet the withdrawals
- Interest charged to Filanbanco (140% annually) had to be paid daily to the Central Bank of Ecuador
- They could not grant new loans, and perform normal banking operations
- Impede all customers from using their Filanbanco Credit Cards (An inquisitive measure for commerce and for the daily life of Ecuadorians).
At that time, the government also began to give news to the press – manipulated by political and economic interests – of an impending bankruptcy. People began to make withdrawals, little by little, but with more anguish and regularity as the days passed. The situation at the end of November was critical and Roberto Isaias and all the management of the bank decided not to continue with the trap of a financial aid full of obstacles because it would be impossible to overcome the situation in that manner.
On December 1, 1998, Roberto and his family decide to hand over Filanbanco to the State or rather to the Deposit Guarantee Agency (AGD), created urgently by the government to assume with “certain legality” the handling of Filanbanco. All assets, infrastructure, all equipment and operating systems (the most advanced in banking technology in Ecuador) were given as a guarantee to the State.
For Roberto Isaias and his management team, the decision to hand over the bank at that time left the possibility of recovering it. That is why the Isaias family made sure to fully honor all their commitments with the creditors, with the savers and cancel the financial assistance requested from the Central Bank of Ecuador.
“All of Ecuador, our clients, depositors and you can be very clear and sure that the Isaias family will honor, as it always has been, all their commitments and debts. No one will be left without their assets. Nobody will be left unpaid and we will put everything necessary to make it happen…”
Speech by Roberto Isaias Dassum, before all his workers.
Filanbanco thus passed to the AGD, with all its responsibilities, demonstrating their commitment to their customers. Only 3 months later – the campaign against the institution and its owners had been suppressed – the bank’s productive assets had increased from US $ 935.7 million to US $ 994 million. The latter proved the bank’s strength and ability to recover. However, this wouldn’t be the case forever.
Filanbanco statewide -corruption of the AGD
In March 1999, the fiscal and monetary mismanagement of the government caused the famous “Bank Holiday” and its catastrophic consequences for the people and entire country.
In 2001 Ecuador’s economy was totally destroyed; 16 banks had fallen in just 2 years. The Deposit Guarantee Agency had used Filanbanco as a bank savior, but without any guarantee. Added to this was the excessive bureaucracy of the AGD and the management of funds (without accounting) used to support institutions owned by privileged groups. All of the latter marked an end to the largest and strongest bank at the time: Filanbanco statewide
To cover up its failure and the murky operations carried out, the AGD began a relentless “legal” persecution against the Isaias, but never managed to present concrete evidence in order to apply a judicial procedure.
This was only the beginning, since the unstoppable political persecution against the Isaias family would be undertaken furiously by Rafael Correa. A persecution that he used as a symbol of hate and that is an identical copy to the one used by all Latin American socialists against successful, rich and opposing citizens, to stay in power.
Confiscation of assets
In July 2008, all the companies and assets owned by Roberto Isaias and his family were confiscated in Ecuador. This confiscation (5) is considered today one of the largest robberies practiced by the Deposit Guarantee Agency for the benefit of the Rafael Correa government.
More than 190 companies that belonged to the family; The result of 100 years of work, large investments and technological innovations, were left in the hands of the Correa government: sugar industries, telecommunications companies, construction companies, etc. On July 8, in a few hours all of the companies were raided by the police force of the government, despite the refusal of all the workers who were there. In reality the true goal of Rafael Correa was to take over all the media created by the Isaias, in order to exercise greater political control over citizenship: TC Television, CN3, Gama Vision and all radios and magazines.
Having those media stations on his side would multiply his communicational power and silence the dissenting voices that greatly bothered him during the popular consultations he had scheduled. Coincidentally at this time he needed to elevate his popularity, which had fallen to 48% in early July 2008, according to Cedatos. The confiscation of the Isaias, represented a robbery of almost $ 800 million dollars and left thousands of Ecuadorians unemployed.
Mandate # 13
After the AGD confiscated all the companies of Roberto Isaias and his family, and the mistreatment suffered by the workers who were there, it took only 24 hours for the Montecristi Constituent Assembly – of an official majority – to legally shield the administrative acts by adding some articles to the constitution. These articles would allow the government to have full legal control over citizens.
Mandate # 13, as it is called today, was devised by Rafael Correa to endorse all seizures made by the AGD and prevent the judges of the country from processing any recourse in favor of the Isaias and their seized property under penalty of jail or dismissal. Mandate # 13 (6) is considered a legal aberration, established by the socialist caste that has taken power in the 21st century.
On June 6, 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee based in Geneva, issued a final opinion on the case of the civil rights violations of Roberto and William Isaías, committed by the government, during the mandate of Rafael Correa.
The UN declared itself 100% in favor of the Isaias, considering the process of seizures of all its assets improper and also against Mandate # 13. Which not only prevented the right that the Isaias had as citizens to appeal to the judicial measure, but prohibited the judges from exercising any recourse in their favor and against the act of seizure.
Both processes were declared in violation and requires the Ecuadorian State, economic, legal and moral reparations. This statement of the Human Rights Committee means that it should:
1-Restore all the assets of the Isaiah brothers as of July 7, 2008
2-Proceed with the nullity of Mandate # 13 and the seizure procedure
3-Publish the ruling in the media, as well as the proper apologies to the Isaias brothers
LIFE IN THE UNITED STATES
Roberto Isaías Dassum has lived in the United States the past 20 years. In all this time he has managed to be traced back as a tireless entrepreneur as well as invest in innumerable projects, not only in the USA but in several countries in Central America. Projects ranging from telecommunications, real estate, energy and education companies.
Today he has managed to publish what his grandfather taught his whole family so much, when he said: – “Do not stop, keep going, there will always be people who wish you evil, but there will be more who are by your side that love and respect you. That’s why you should always help those who need it … and do things with passion and honesty.”
In the United States alone, The Isaias have generated 700 jobs in the different sectors where they have invested. Sectors that have added value to the economy of each place.
Today, Roberto Isaías, can be considered a motivator for the new generations of the family and for many entrepreneurs who consult him daily, to successfully grow their businesses and companies.
His children have learned with discipline the teachings of Roberto Isaías and can now proudly show their achievements. It is worthy to highlight one of their developments, which includes all the infrastructure and operation of a system of several schools, located in different cities of the United States and where more than 800 people work.
Nahim Isaias Foundation
The financial growth that accompanied the Isaias family from the beginning, and the values learned from their grandfather, made them help the people of their community.
In 1967, they decided to open small dispensaries in different parts of the city of Guayaquil to give medical attention to the population, and do a social work of family education, where Nahim Isaias put all his efforts.
Since 1988, the Isaias family, in honor of their uncle, decided to create the Nahim Isaias Foundation. Currently, there are already 3 locations in the city and where new medical technologies are incorporated every day, for the diagnosis and treatment of patients, in more than 38 specialties. Today Roberto Isaias and his brothers William and Estefano contribute regularly to maintain their operation and make constant improvements to the equipment, which is required to serve more than 270,000 people each year.
The Nahim Isaias Foundation signifies an unavoidable commitment to the whole family with its own history and with the health of Ecuadorians.
“Since our creation there have been many companies and organizations that have helped us in different ways; However, all our works from 1988 until today, would not have been possible without the support of a noble family of noble spirit and open hands to help those who need it. Not only is our foundation named after a worthy representative of this family but it also represents the selfless commitment and all the support received by all members of the Isaias family. A surname that has always been sensitized to the needs of those who have less and that, we are sure, will continue to support our cause.”
The Nahim Isaias Museum
This museum was born as an extension of the cultural area of Filanbanco, due to the great admiration that Nahim and the entire Isaias family had for colonial art. For years, everyone was dedicated to rescuing and restoring important works throughout the country, as well as preserve them in the cultural annexes of the bank.
On June 25, 1989, with Roberto Isaias in the presidency of the bank, the museum is inaugurated bearing the name of his uncle, Nahim Isaias. A contribution to the culture of the country, which exhibited a collection of 2500 works of the “Colonial Art of the Quito School” and “Republican Art”.
Later in the search and rescue of archeology pieces, the museum acquired a very important sample of the main cultures that inhabited the coastal regions of Ecuador. Thus, in July 1996 the archaeological area was opened and its permanent exhibition called “Prehispanic Cultures of the Ecuadorian Coast”.
The Nahim Isaias Museum was handed over to the Central Bank of Ecuador, by the Isaias family, in the year of the Filanbanco crisis, given the threat of damage to its facilities and works. However, there are certain rumors that some authorities in Quito, wanted to take unscrupulously the works of art of this museum and the citizens of Guayaquil reacted outraged and defended it as their cultural heritage. The museum reopened its doors to the public in 2004.
The constant help to the people and institutions is something that moves the Isaias.
They consider it a family principle that has to do with respect for human dignity. That sense of collaboration did not stop in Ecuador; it has gone to transcended the United States. Donations and contributions have been many, and are part of the life of Roberto Isaías, who participates in some of these institutions as a member of the Board of Directors: Voices for Children, The Jackson Health Foundation, The Baptist Health Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.