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Remembering Olivier Descamps

Once met, hard to forget: It is a phrase which fitted Olivier Descamps perfectly. Everyone who knew Olivier will have their own personal stories about him. Mine range from long, informative and entertaining lunches in obscure parts of the EBRD world to a high speed ride across the Mongolian steppes on horseback, as we galloped side by side cheered on by colleagues. His equestrian skills matched everything else that he did, they were a mix of the elegant and the effective. Behind the smiles and the fun lay a man of serious intent. He was serious about the Bank, serious about delivering to our countries of operations and serious about the way that he cared.


At Olivier’s retirement party at the 2015 Annual Meeting in Tblisi, Phil, as First Vice President and friend, laid out an impressive career in statistics. Cumulative EBRD investment in countries under Olivier’s management amounted to €48 billion and the cumulative number of operations was over 2,500. Phil described the remarkable numbers as the result of Olivier’s uncompromising drive, dedication and commitment. Speaking at the same event, Suma summed up Olivier’s 22 years in the Bank. He joined what was then known as the EBRD’s Merchant Banking Department in 1993, as Director for the Balkans. Previously, as Suma pointed out, he had been forced to endure a tough life working for Chase Manhattan in Rio de Janeiro, obliged every day to wander up and down the Copacobana.


Olivier thrived in the EBRD. He made a difference to many countries: spearheading the EBRD’s response to the banking crisis in Georgia in 2008, working in Kazakhstan to ensure that the Bank was part of the country’s plan for economic rejuvenation. When he retired, Olivier was widely acknowledged as one of the EBRD’s most effective Managing Directors. In Suma’s words, “ For me, Olivier has come to personify all of the qualities that have made this Bank successful. A tough negotiator with an investment banker’s instincts, Olivier has never lost sight of the transition mandate of the Bank.”


Olivier’s toughness was evident to the end. He fought a long bout of illness tenaciously. Our thoughts are with his wife, Pia and son, Felix. For them, perhaps, there will be some comfort in knowing that Olivier left behind a formidable legacy in the countries that he cared so much about. For his friends and former colleagues, yes, a very hard man to forget.


by Jonathan Charles, Managing Director, Communications



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