|Biographical detail : ||Building one of the Arab world’s biggest financial institutions.
Chairman of the biggest privately owned financial house in the Middle East, the Arab Bank, for three decades, Abdul-Majid also played a key role in the rise of Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) leader Yasser Arafat.
Spreading from Jerusalem the bank spawned 378 branches in 27 countries and with assets, in 2004, valued at $35.7bn the Arab Bank is a rags-to-riches story. Abdul-Majid’s father, a semi-literate stonemason left for America in 1911, made a fortune in textiles, and founded the bank (al-Bank al-Arabi) in 1930, “not to make a profit but to serve the Arabs of Palestine and their national welfare.”
When Abdul-Majid assumed the chairmanship after his father’s death in 1974, he inspired the bank’s 7,000 employees – he was always the first into the bank every day, and the last to leave – re-invested the gushing oil profits of the 1970s and met the demand for bespoke personal banking services in the 1990s.
Arab leaders named Shoman, in 1964, chairman of the PLO’s Palestine National Fund being one of the significant supporters.
Resident in Amman from 1948, after Israel was established, Shoman wielded tremendous societal influence. He established Jerusalem Development Committee and created a prize for intellectuals who contributed to Jerusalem’s Arab heritage. Amongst various humanitarian organisations, he chaired a Foundation after his name, from 1978, and from 1987, a cultural and scientific forum – both in Amman.
Abdul Majid often rescued Jordan from fiscal disaster such as he released funds to support the Jordanian dinar, which had collapsed after King Hussein died, in 2000.
Abdul-Majid was born in Beit Hanina, between Jerusalem and Ramallah. His father, Abdul Hameed Shoman, had left for America six months before his birth and the son met his father when he was 14 in New York.
Abdul-Majid Shoman’s burial in the royal cemetery in Amman reflected the great esteem in which he was held in Jordan.