Event Highlights

The Asian Banker Achievement Awards 2008
16 MARCH 2007

Asia’s next generation of bank leaders identified

A gala awards ceremony on the eve of The Asian Banker Summit in Hanoi celebrates senior visionaries, business strength, and introduces the next generation of bank talent.

Following an extensive survey of banks in Asia that identified the region’s top banking talent, The Asian Banker Achievement Awards programme culminated in a glittering awards dinner for Asia’s current and future bank leaders. The event was held in Hanoi the day before the start of the opening keynote address of The Asian Banker Summit featuring Senator Paul Sarbanes, co-author of the Sarbanes Oxley Act.

The evening began with awards for business excellence, which focused on business lines such as cash management, treasury, trade finance, corporate and investment banking, and Islamic finance. There were also awards for processes such as risk management, and technology and operations, as well as awards recognising the role of talent placement firms in supporting the financial services industry.

The middle section of the evening covered awards for Asia’s Promising Young Bankers. Fifteen of Asia’s strongest young talent, each from a different country, were in Hanoi to receive awards. Representing a variety of business lines that covered investment banking, IT, transaction banking, Islamic finance, retail banking and private banking, each recipient was distinguished by achievement, performance, and strong leadership skills.

The evening’s guest of honour was Sir George Mathewson, the former chairman of RBS who traced the many challenges of his own career as he recalled his own evolution from a young banker to a truly inspirational leader who turned a struggling Scottish lender into one of the world’s most successful financial institutions. The theme of the speech was “lessons from a battle-hardened general,” and Sir George often referred to themes of crisis management, citing many of the challenges that he had gone through with RBS’ acquisition of the larger NatWest that also showed up in the recent RBS and ABN AMRO acquisition.

Noting his most difficult challenges in rescuing RBS and turning it around, Sir George spoke about how the bank experienced crisis triage. As part of the effort to save the bank, the weaker one third of the senior management was asked to leave, while one third was deemed strong enough to lead the bank forward and one third was monitored. Within a year, the third that was being monitored had left the bank, indicating the rarity of true leadership in senior management.

The intention of the awards programme was to identify the strongest of the cohort of mid-career bankers, many of whom are already at the tops of their banks or banking units. With many in their early- or mid-thirties, they have over twenty years in their careers. Nearly all are already mentors in their own institutions passing on knowledge and experience to new recruits.

In their acceptance speeches, the young bankers’ raised several common themes, among them the importance of mentors, the passion to make a difference, and the balance of family and career. But another theme was also humility, a respect for senior leaders and the opportunities given them through often unusual circumstances. 

The climax of the evening came with regional leadership awards. Accepting the award for achievement award for women in the financial services industry was Kannikar Chalitaporn, president of Siam Commercial Bank. Despite her many achievements, the fiery leader noted in accepting the trophy for women leaders that all women have two careers—one in the office looking after their companies and one at home looking after their families.

Joseph Yam, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, accepted the Award for achievement in regulation in the financial services industry, noting the regulator’s role in pushing Hong Kong to be the earliest adopter of Basel II in Asia. The regulator’s proactive approach and leadership dialogue with the banks it supervises, with an emphasis on transparency, have helped the HKMA become the leading regulator body in the region.   

Capping the evening was the lifetime achievement, which was given to Anil Khandelwal, managing director of Bank of Baroda just ahead of his retirement at the end of May. Khandelwal, also a very passionate leader, talked about the importance of applying tough love in bringing a bank through troubled times by focussing on compassion and action.  Noting that there are really no accurate textbooks for leadership, Khandelwal said that a leader’s service is always about what a company requires from its leader.  





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