Habib Esmail, founder of Habib Group, started his career in Bombay in 1891 at the age of 13 on a salary of Rs. 5 per month in a firm that dealt in copper and brass utensils. He worked day and night, arriving before the shop opened, staying till late in the night, and then walking home to save money on conveyance. No wonder that in the short span of five years, at the age of 18, he was made a partner in the firm. Even at that young age, he had established an excellent reputation for honesty, hard work, fair play, trustworthiness, humility. These values continue to guide the activities of Habib Group to this day.
During the next 17 years, he captured over 60 percent of the local utensils business and diversified into export of copper, cotton scrap iron and manganese ore, selling to East Africa, Italy, France and Great Britain. Being a person of great insight, he sent his representatives to Europe in 1912 and established branch offices in Genoa and Vienna. Simultaneously, he initiated business relationships with Japan and China.
His reputation for honesty and fair play was so well known that his customers and local merchants would leave their surplus funds with him for safe-keeping and investment, thus establishing the foundation of the family’s banking business. In 1921, he started Habib & Sons. The firm traded in cotton, oil seeds, and bullion and acted as a merchant bank. It eventually became the flagship of the family and the parent company of Habib Bank Limited.
Habib Bank Limited was established in Bombay in 1941 by the sons of Habib Esmail. The bank had over 30 branches operating in India at the time of partition. Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah reposed confidence in the bank by opening his personal account. On the creation of Pakistan in 1947, and following the advice of the Quaid-e-Azam, Habib Family shifted all of its businesses including Habib Bank to Pakistan. The bank played a vital role in meeting the financial and banking needs of Pakistan. It continued to record tremendous growth and progress, it emerged as the leading private-sector commercial bank in Pakistan when it was taken over by the Government of Pakistan along with all other Pakistani banks on January 1, 1974.
In 1991, the government again decided to allow the private sector to establish commercial banks in the country. Dawood Habib Group was amongst the first to be granted permission to set up a new bank under this policy. Bank AL Habib Limited was incorporated in October 1991 by the grandsons of Habib Esmail and started operations in January 1992. Although Bank AL Habib commenced operations in 1992, it embodies the same high standards of integrity, prudence, and trust which have characterized Habib Family’s banking operations in Pakistan and abroad for about 70 years. The bank is particularly conscious of the trust reposed in it by the depositors, and its prime duty is to protect and honour this trust all times. Guided by the values taught and practiced by Habib Esmail more than a century ago, the bank has continued to grow and progress in all areas of its operations. In a short span of 25 years, the Bank’s assets have grown to more than Rs, 750 Billion, with a network of 722 branches and sub-branches, a Wholesale Branch in the Kingdom of Bahrain, Seychelles and Malaysia and Representative Offices in Dubai, Istanbul, Beijing, China and Nairobi, Kenya.