Detailed Bio

From poverty to politics, Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek is living proof that anything is possible in life.

A beginning in struggle, Mehmet Simsek was born in 1967 in a small village in Batman province, one of the poorest regions in Turkey. 

The youngest of nine children, he grew up with the challenges of limited resources; no running water, no electricity and no local school.

Yet, with seemingly impossible hurdles to overcome, Mehmet Simsek persevered.

 

A combination of diligence, hard work and dedication to the pursuit of excellence proved an effective mix and set the foundation that would  lead him to many successes throughout his professional career. It is no surprise Mehmet Simsek has risen to the top and is now Minister  of Finance of the Republic of Turkey.

 

His own words say it best:  “I am the best evidence that equal opportunities prevail in this country. I managed to explore and create a new world out of nothing.”

This is his story. 

Education, The Key to Opening Doors:

With no school in his village, Mehmet Simsek attended primary and secondary school in Batman. From the start he excelled as a student and ranked second place in his graduating class. He then continued on to higher education and won a place in the Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University. Upon graduation he continued on as a Research Assistant until he was awarded a state scholarship to study abroad.

Taking the opportunity to further his education, Simsek accepted a place at the University of Exeter in England. There, he completed his masters degree, an MPhil in Finance and Investments.

Professional Career:

Upon completing his Master’s in England, Simsek returned to Turkey and began his professional career. He spent four years working for the US Embassy as a Senior Economist (1993-1997). From there, he moved to the private sector and worked on Wall Street in New York for UBS (1997) before returning to Turkey to work as an Economist for Deutsche-Bender Securities in Istanbul (1998-2000). It was there that Simsek began to establish himself as an authority on the Turkish economy and became a sought after resource by several London based investment banks. 

London Calling:

It was only a matter of time before the opportunity to move to London arose. In 2000, Simsek entertained several offers, ultimately choosing Merrill Lynch. Hired as an Economist and Strategist responsible for emerging Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Simsek soon started making his mark in the industry. Proving himself through the same diligence, hard work and dedication honed as a student, he found himself working his way up at Merrill Lynch and was appointed in 2006 as Head of Fixed Income Strategy and Macro Economic Research for the emerging EMEA region.

Throughout his career at Merrill Lynch, Simsek became know for his impartiality, integrity, and the ability to ‘tell it like it is’ to the client. A combination of these traits, and his establishment already as an authority on Turkish economic issues, led to a rising global recognition in the industry. From this position in the financial industry, he would start to make inroads back to Turkey and attract the attention of the Turkish government. 

The Road Home:

In Spring 2006 Simsek was nominated as a candidate for the Turkish Central Bank Governor. He was excited at the prospect to return to Turkey and to have the opportunity to contribute to the development of his own country. Unfortunately, the appointment was not approved. Disappointed yet undeterred, Simsek continued to make connections that would eventually lead him home. 

A few months later, Simsek gained a private meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan. That meeting proved the catalyst to the birth of his political career.  In his straight forward approach, Simsek explained the importance of emphasizing structural reforms in political policy, and the effect these reforms would have on the Turkish economy.

Prime Minister Erdogan was impressed and extended Simsek an open invitation stating: “We need you in the kitchen.” 

Simsek was honored by the invitation. Although never thinking of himself as a politician, he certainly was driven by the chance to serve his country.

Early elections in 2007 provided an opportunity. In literally the space of a weekend, Simsek received sabbatical leave from Merrill Lynch and found himself back in Turkey. Nominated to Gaziantep Province as his constituency, he was soon on the campaign trail sharing his agenda of structural reform and the way forward for Turkey.

All the years in the private sector and his ‘tell it like it is’ approach paid off. With a resounding landslide victory, Simsek was on his way to serving his country and truly making a difference.

Soon after being sworn in as a Member of Parliament, Simsek was named State Minister of the Economy. He was suddenly in a position to push forward an agenda of structural reform and take the Turkish economy to a stronger, more stable position. Serving in this position for two years, Simsek was then appointed Minster of Finance in 2009. He has been in this role ever since.

As Minister of Finance, Mehmet Simsek is in charge of developing and maintaining the budget of the sixth largest economy in Europe, and the 16th largest in the world.

Walking the Walk:

Throughout his two terms, Minister Simsek has undertaken far reaching structural reforms that have carried Turkey forward into the league of more advanced global economies. He has also worked diligently to establish the Tax Audit Board, simplify tax regulations and enhance taxpayer’s rights. Direct in his approach, his honesty and integrity play a large role in reducing the shadow economy. This same approach is taking Turkey forward as a first class nation.

Always the realist, Minister Simsek is not one to rest on his laurels. He knows there is still much work to be done. His agenda remains the same, as he continues to dedicate himself to the improvement of Turkey.