WAS APPOINTED AS GROUP EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TO THE BOARD OF STANDARD CHARTERED PLC IN JANUARY 2010. HE IS BASED IN HONG KONG AND IS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, ASIA.
Mr. Bindra joined Standard Chartered in 1998 and has held senior positions in the Group. Before joining Standard Chartered, Jaspal was with UBS Investment Banking. He began his career with Bank of America in 1984 and worked with them across Treasury Markets and Consumer Banking in India and Singapore.
Mr. Bindra is an independent non-executive director of Reckitt Benckiser Group plc. He sits on the Board of Governors of XLRI Business School, a member of the City of London Advisory Council for India, and is a Board Director of US-India Business Council.
Mr. Bindra is a qualified Chartered Accountant and MBA. He is married with one son.
Q: Mr. Bindra, give the readers a snapshot into your background:
I was educated in India with my formative years in Darjeeling then furthered in Chartered accountancy subsequently earned a second degree with an MBA in India. The last 25 years have been dedicated to my career.
Q: Tell the readers about your roots?
My father is a Rawalpindi native, educated from the Lahore Government College, after which he worked with the civil service and enjoyed a successful tenure with the Government. My mother, originally from Sukho, Pakistan eventually married my father and today between three siblings, we are well settled in various parts of the world.
Q: While at University, did you vacillate between fields?
In the days of CA and MBA, I was pretty certain about working for a bank. For two very simple reasons: First for the very urban lifestyle which I much preferred. Secondly, of the prospects of growth banking has to offer.
Q: Have you got a chance to visit your parents place in Pakistan where they used to stay?
I Have been to Pakistan for several times recently and I have also had the privilege of visiting my parents place but also visiting Panja Sahib and Nankana Sahib.
Q: You’ve had the privilege of beginning your career at the Bank of America in 1984. What are the distinct differences in the banking sector then and now?
Banking was far more reputed then it is. Banks served the purpose of garnering savings for people as well as putting investments to constructive use, somewhere in between banking has become more a proprietary business and speculative in nature making it complex.
Q: You’re a bit of global citizen; tell us where you relocated soon after University.
Domestically I’ve lived in a few cities within India: Bombay, Delhi & Calcutta. Internationally I worked in US, Zurich, London, Singapore & now here in Hong Kong.
Q: There was an increasing trend for Indian Banks strategically placed in foreign countries, either because they were government controlled or limited to India. Has this strategy made a difference to the Indian Economy?
Banking in India has grown exponentially obviously National banks have also become far more progressive over the years. Private banking has seen maximum growth with sanctions on licensing, enabling entry in developed and emerging markets. The overall banking infrastructure in India has become much more regulated and compliant as well as consumer-friendly. There’s a huge opportunity for the large non-banking population, where banking is not well penetrated in India, & this has given rise to international expansion in both the private and public sectors. Another opportunity for Indian banks in the future is to consolidate banking which it has currently not caught on.
Q: If we date back fifty to even a hundred years ago, businesses were not necessarily or entirely dependent on banks. Our world has changed and so has banking. If we look at the sub-prime lending crisis in 2008, banks as we knew it came crashing down. Conversely, Standard Chartered profited the same year. What were the success factors for Standard Chartered Bank?
As a western bank, we truly are an emerging-market bank. And banks of this kind performed very well through 2008-2009. It’s a simple equation of where there is limited leverage there is less securitization so the risk of huge correlation of failure between banks and corporate is not as acute or serious as it is in the west because of the high leverage and the strong volume of securitization significantly raising risks.
Q: Being appointed as the CEO of a prestigious bank was a proud moment for you in your career. Tell us about your leadership to other previous CEO’s of Standard Chartered bank?
I think each person is distinctively different, and with varying leadership styles but to me the most important thing is not how different we are from one another but to be true to oneself. The temptation to imitate someone else’s style because he or she is successful or senior is where the struggle begins. You are better off being the best that you can be, as it is far more work to be better than someone else.
Q: What continuously draws you to this industry?
It’s a people industry so interaction is required at all levels, and you have to be a people oriented and energized by people. I love that you get to meet many kinds of people across many countries some of which have become friends.
Q: Success and failure is part of life. Tell us about some of your notable experiences with distinct learning associated to them.
I have had more than a share of both successes and failures (laughs) and there is something that you learn from failure, subconsciously you don’t really need to make an effort, you instinctively do things differently next time. But the fact remains that you choose to learn from them. Connoting failure to being unlucky is a recipe for disaster. Taking an organic approach and ‘searching’ for lessons in any situation and you’ll soon experience an expanded vision. Even more empowering constituting learning is modesty.
Q: Was there a country in which you felt an affinity towards?
At different stages in one’s career, opportunities bring forth a myriad of experiences. Early in my career, I was always keen to go outward, and looking back over my career, I moved back to India twice and a short stint again in 2005 before I was up and out again. Now that we are in Hong Kong, I think of all the places we have lived in, Hong Kong must count as one of the best.
Q: You were listed as top 14 in the worlds 100 Sikhs amongst powerful and contemporary Sikhs in the world personalities?
It was academic-centric; it doesn’t make you feel any better or worse. People make these lists but you play your part and do whatever it is whether you rank 1 or you rank 100, God has been very kind. Waheguru has been very kind.
Q: You also carried the Beijing Olympic torch, a one-time privilege how did you feel?
Very proud moment for us…you know it’s a rare lifetime opportunity.
Q: Did you fathom you would carry the Olympic torch?
The torch I definitely didn’t think of, but looking back life unfolds. Many wonderful events have taken place that I didn’t necessarily think of.
A traditionalist that my mother was, wanted me to join the civil service but when I told her I was going to join the private sector, she was dismissive of the idea. She would go on to say: “Jyade toh jyada ki hoye ga private sector che ( What more and more would be in the private sector )?” God couldn’t have been kinder and would later become Country Head for BOA, India.
Q: Was joining BOA in 1984 monumental for you?
The year of 84 was the cornerstone to India’s development, still at the time it was not clear how far India would develop but there was promise of huge potential, and in 1991 we saw a thrust in India.
Q: Can you comment on the Hong Kong market?
It’s a fantastic market with fascinating opportunities.
Q: And what about in the next 15 – 20 years?
Predicting would be speculating however Hong Kong’s tourism and consumerism is backed by the mainland. Hong Kong is a conduit both ways for investment, trade and everything through China. People may feel pessimistic about Hong Kong’s prominence, but the diversion will be gradual.
Replicating Hong Kong’s infrastructure anywhere in the mainland is going to take time as well as a transparent financial infrastructure. But the challenge is how they create an independent and transparent legal system. While developments are on the rise, the drivers are still Hong Kong and Shanghai followed by second tier cities such as Shenzhen and Tianjin.
Q: Will Hong Kong feel the same after 50 years?
As in all countries, political compulsions trigger regression but if we point towards the socio-economic factors, we can certainly expect growth in the many years to come.
Q: There’s the notion that Hong Kong businesses are shrinking because Beijing and Shanghai have infiltrated. How valid is this?
The sheer size of the china market is so vast that has a ripple effect on Hong Kong. Hong Kong owned businesses may be business owners in China. In the example of annual car sales, Hong Kong purchases up to 200,000 cars whereas China buys ten times of that so the manufacturer or dealer may shift gears to China but that doesn’t negate the entrepreneurship in Hong Kong.
Q: Tell us about the deal-breaker year in Banking.
2008, The collapse of Lehman Brother’s was colossal, a wave so large like never felt before. The world was surprised at the size and immediacy of the crisis. But for us in Asia, we braved the challenges that 1998 brought on.
Q: How will Iraq affect the Hong Kong and/or India’s finance market?
The price of energy is impacted at a global level, up to the extent of geopolitical tension in the center, a further uncertainty could rise if America is involved in discussions. Other geopolitical similarities are not only in the Middle East, but in Ukraine, Russia, China, Japan, North and South Korea tensions.
Q: Is the next recession close by?
No reason to believe that it should lead to recession until and unless tension leads to geopolitical warfare, then we can expect financial tension and the uncertainty of it.
Q: Tell us about your initiatives of your Diversity team of ethnicity and disability.
We encourage and accept diversity at every level in the company. SCB’s philosophy is about giving opportunity to the ‘person’ best for the job rather than judging a book by its cover, and we offer opportunities irrespective of ethnicity, disability or age.
SCB has been in existence for 158 years, and over the past 6 years, we’ve acquired talent from the Asian region, with our Regional Head a Singaporean, a Chinese native as the Country Head of India
Q: What about the ethnic minorities Indians, Pakistanis etc.?
We are all about international/cross border talent. One of our missions for our talent is to create a global atmosphere, and our employees move on rotational basis. About 4000 Indians are deployed internationally, as well as Chinese, Koreans and Indonesians.
Q: How is Standard Chartered bank’s corporate responsibility in Hong Kong through sport?
SCB raises awareness through the marathon each year, giving the public the opportunity to participate and give back to the community. Anyone can buy a pair of running shoes and participate. We also sponsor the English premier league football team Liverpool as their uniform & jersey sponsors. And every other country, SCB gives back through different events and modalities.
Q: With low interest rates/yields from banks, what’s your best advice for investors?
Interests are cyclic in nature so we can expect peaks and troughs. I always advice diversification of investments. Spread your investments, and start early and small. People forget the power of multiplication. People make the mistake of putting all their eggs in one basket but diversification is the key. In the long run, maintain a balanced portfolio and keep cool about investments when they run low because they will bounce back.
Q: What are your thoughts about the future prospects of India or Asia?
The Centre of Economic gravity is moving to Asia. And so Asia is only going to become more prominent. In terms of statistics in 2010, 28 % of the middle class was living in Asia. In 2025 about 60% or more will be living in Asia. So it’s a huge shift from 28% to 60% in an invariably short period of time.
Q: India is banking on their new PM Narender Modi, BJP government.” Ache din ane wale hain” is it true or not?
It depends how you look at it. There are two sides to every coin. Realistically speaking, implementing change takes years. Mody is a proponent of bold changes and his cabinet minister will support those reforms. While India may not see incremental changes, they will no doubt be bold.
Q: Sardar Manmohan Singh ji exuberated brilliance as the Finance minister, but his leadership as Prime Minister is questioned. How do you think Modi will be different?
Manmohan Singh has gone down history as minister in 91-92 for carrying out structural reforms that liberalized India’s economy.
In 2004, when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) came to power, its chairperson Sonia Gandhi unexpectedly relinquished the premiership to Manmohan Singh. This Singh-led “UPA I” government executed several key legislations and projects including nuclear projects.
For a variety of reasons, this dual power base led to unforeseen results. The advantage we hope to have under Modi’s administration is his mandate to avoid any collisions whatsoever. Modi’s enthusiasm about delivering to the common man’s expectation has permeated through the people’s hearts as with Mr. Manmohan Singh it was a mechanical. As with any new term, it is still very early days for PM Modi, but all indications and signs are very positive.
Q:What are your thoughts about Hong Kong leadership?
Well I am not as competent to talk about the Hong Kong leadership. But whatever I see from the press and I hear from people socially I feel that it’s been a really difficult time for the leadership in Hong Kong.
Part of it is on construct of the Hong Kong constitution where the leadership lacks political backing & it sort of has to play to the lowest common denominator to the Legco and this makes it difficult. I think it’s definitely a very difficult phase for the leadership in Hong Kong. But I hope things will settle.
Q: Let’s talk about your family now. Are your family members also in Banking sector?
My brother used to be but now he is with Master Card he runs all of Asia’s and Middle East’s for master card. His name is Mr. Vicky Bindra. My Brotheris Presidentof Asia and Global Account for Mater Card worldwide.
Q: Care to share about your immediate family, wife and children?
My wife is here with me in Hong Kong. She very much loves it here. My son works for Disney so he shuttles between Los Angeles and Mumbai.
Q: Did you want your son to follow in your footsteps?
His interest has always been in films, and is in this capacity at Disney. We’ll always encourage him to follow his heart and respected his choices. He is very happy and we are very happy for him.
Q: When you are not working, how are you spending your time?
We travel a fair bit, so we find ourselves in India with immediate families. But both my wife and I are fond of reading and we watch films.
Q: Your wife must be very supportive of your travels.
She’s always been very supportive. Our son too was away for college and now working overseas so my wife and I travel together on short trips. So the end result is she tours while I am in meetings in hotels. I see the world through her eyes:)
Q: Your humility is exemplary, and reached echelons. How does one maintain so much humility?
Humility and achievements are not comparable to one another. Humility is knowing there is more to learn, and more to absorb. This virtue alone can take one far. It’s the secret of success.
Q: What motivates you?
Motivation is a state of mind, different stages in your life are an external stimulant and each stage differs. For many, your early years are about acquiring wealth, whereas the stimuli changes year on year.
Progressing from there, setting a personal foot print in the company becomes important. And as far as my person growth to date, making a difference is probably the biggest motivator. It is extremely motivational to see how successful decision making impacts the quality of business and people’s work ethics.
Q: Having lived in Hong Kong for a few years, what are your feelings about the Punjabi community?
We are well integrated within the Indian community, and visit the Gurdwara Sikh Temple and yearly events such as Diwali Balls. The Indian community at large is ever increasing and is well situated in the field of retail, trade, diamond/gems and hospitality. Each year more Indians are relocating to Hong Kong in various sectors including Banking and IT.
Q: What idea should we bring to boost the new generation, be it Indians, Pakistanis etc?
The opportunity to interact more, creating synergies and relationships amongst different cultures. That is the best we can do as common individuals.
Q: What’s your special message to the youth of Hong Kong?
Two distinct messages. The first is that nothing compensates hard work, and luck will play it’s part. The second thing is adaptability. Accept change as it is imminent.
I share the same philosophy for returning Indians, especially those who have been away for so long. Embrace change and adapt.
Q: Property is always a good investment.
Property has always yielded great dividends and is considered still one of the best investments.
Q: What advice would you give to our youth today, particularly amongst ethnic minorities?
If you look around in the world today, Hong Kong has many opportunities. But if you look a little further, China has a lot to offer. China is the new frontier. If you can overcome the language barrier, and Mandarin is pervasive today, it opens up a world of opportunities.