Born in Sivas in 1958, Zafer Kurtul graduated from the Department of Management at Istanbul University in 1979 and got an MBA majoring in Finance at Wisconsin-Madison University in 1982.

Having launched his career in Citibank Istanbul branch in 1984, Kurtul ventured into the banking sector this way, He served as the Credit Marketing Department Head in BH-Ak Dresdner Bank between 1986 and 1990. He was appointed as the General Manager in Societe Generale Bank in 1990 and held the same position in Tekfenbank between 1995 and 1998. Having been appointed to the General Manager Assistant position in Akbank in 1998, Zafer Kurtul was eventually promoted to the CEO position in Akbank in 2000.

He served as the CEO and Board Member in Sabanci Holding between July 19, 2010 and February 20, 2017.

Having been the Chairman of the Board in ZKurtul Yönetim Danışmanlık A.Ş. and a board member in Alternatif Bank since 2017, Zafer Kurtul also holds the membership positions in the boards of Mersin Uluslararası Liman İşletmeciliği A.Ş. and Polisan Holding A.Ş. since 2018.

Zafer Kurtul speaks fluent English and is currently a member of the Board of Trustees in Kadir Has University as of March 1, 2019.