Mali banking on finance supremo Tatam Oumar Ly

Oumar Tatam Ly, appointed as Mali's first post-conflict prime minister Thursday, has impressed observers as a high-flying banker with more than two decades' experience in international finance.

He is far from the obvious choice to many in Mali's corridors of power, having remained an avowedly apolitical figure while moving up the career ladder at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).

Policy briefings aside, Ly's public pronouncements have been rare, and for most of Mali's population of 16 million he will be something of a mystery.

Relatives describe the husband and 49-year-old father-of-two as warm and good humoured, in contrast with a public persona sometimes described as reserved and distant.

Ly's appointment brings to an end a successful stint as adviser to the central bank's governer in Dakar, one of the region's top finance jobs. He tackled the stress of this demanding role with time spent on the Senegalese capital's tennis courts.

Admirers point to a fierce intellect, doubtless inherited from his equally high-profile parents, a celebrated writer and a career diplomat.

Ly nevertheless lacks the political know-how of other grandees who were seen as more obvious candidates for the premiership.

He is expected to lean heavily on a team of advisers who will guide him through the task of amassing a front bench team over the coming days.

His appointment will be a boost to Malians relying on Keita to make good on a pre-election commitment to set aside years of cronyism.

He has said he will build a team around him on the basis of their ability rather than their party politics.

Born in Paris, Ly gained France's highest teaching diploma from the prestigious Ecole Normale Superieure de Lyon, a masters degree in economic history from the Sorbonne and a diploma from ESSEC, one of Europe's top business schools based near the French capital.

He began his career at the World Bank before moving via the general secretariat of the president of Mali to an analyst's role at the BCEAO in 1994.

He was given the role of director of studies at the bank and rose to the position of chief financial officer. He held that post for six years before he was promoted to national director for Mali and then adviser to the governor.

An academic at heart, Ly is the son of the late novelist and political activist Ibrahima Ly, who fled Mali after spending time in jail and complaining of being tortured under the regime of Malian military dictator Moussa Traore.

The new premier's mother, Madina Tall Ly, served as an ambassador under Alpha Oumar Konare, president of Mali during most of the 1990s.

A confidant who has had the president's ear long before Keita's election campaign, Ly pipped a number of more obvious choices, such as Tieman Coulibaly and Soumeylou Boubeye, both recent foreign ministers.