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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Citibank NA has more reasons to stay in Bangladesh

Because of the man pictured on the left, Citibank managed to raise profits by 64% and broker some of the biggest deals in the country. Yet it is hard to believe that the same person responsible for this growth decided to appear here. Why is this so important? Because the parent company went on a firing binge closing 52,000 jobs worldwide and selling most of what it considered non-core businesses. With HSBC and Standard Chartered having a party on both hemispheres it looked definite that Bangladesh would take a backseat as a non-core business while Citigroup paid $400 million for the naming rights for a baseball field (amidst simultaneously asking for a bailout).

This is more important for this blog because he is a Bangladeshi leading a Multi-National Company. Not just any MNC, it is Citigroup. And he simply doesn't work as a puppet, he is actually calling the shots. While many comments in this blog have pointed out that there is actually Bangladeshi leadership in manufacturing, the Citibank-Mamun Rashid thing is a entirely different deal. First, Mamun Rashid isn't a glorified plant manager with a CEO title. Nor is he a paper pusher or a rubber stamp for head office. He isn't here operating in Bangladesh because Citibank New York officials couldn't be bothered with mundane tasks.

Rashid doesn't manufacture low cost products with a unruly local workforce where MNCs are forced to go with local talent. He actually manages everything Citigroup in Bangladesh. This includes high premium banking. Plainly Citigroup didn't put him here because they needed any Bangladeshi they could find. He is there simply because of his banking talent. And seeing him on the move is more spectacular. He manages to move faster than Standard Chartered or HSBC (otherwise known (literally) as East India Company). He is eager to take these colonial antiquities on with full force.

But on a personal note, most importantly, he stands up to represent Bangladesh. He always promotes Bangladesh in a way that no CEO of Grameenphone or any other MNC has never done or will ever do. Neither Anders Jensen nor Oddver Hesjedal ever utter anything starting with the letter B. Its always about how Telenor did this and Telenor did that. Grameenphone this, Grameenphone that. It makes my ears bleed. GP only started focusing on CSR to repair their tainted image. Even then its CSR in a sense that 2% actually goes for CSR and 98% goes to ads saying that they are indeed actively in CSR (while embezzling more in the process). Why Mamun Rashid felt he had to stoop so low to appear in such a Grameenphone ad is surprising when you consider the vast differences in ideologies between them.

Furthermore unlike the Grameenphone CEOs, Rashid's interviews are always Bangladesh focused. And it isn't about how Citibank delivers 90% mobile coverage to 95% of the people. For him it is always about what Bangladesh has to offer for international businesses, its investment prospects, its growth and how Citibank fits into this scenario. It is never about Citibank as a entity, but it is about the partnership prospects with a country he is from. He is the biggest promoter of Bangladesh I have seen in a long time and long overdue from a MNC. And he is always there at conferences touting Bangladesh and never rants on how Citibank alleviated poverty in Bangladesh through mobile phones. MNCs also owe him for the example he is leading on behalf of them.

Now back from this praise, is 64% growth really that good? I am hearing reports and rumors that Brac Bank may post a profit growth over 70% this year. And this year is supposed to be Brac Bank's 'bad' year. But despite this growth which will probably be overshadowed by local banks and foreign failures, the best reason for Citibank to stay in Bangladesh is Mamun Rashid himself.

Update: This wasn't written to offend anyone. But to encourage those of you at MNCs to reach the top to make the difference Bangladesh needs. Mamun Rashid's praise is long overdue.


the_skywalker said...

Mamunur Rashid indeed has got a stellar profile and list of accomplishment which deserve lot of accolades. He is indeed a role model for aspiring Bangladeshi professionals who are working here in Bangladesh. I must thank the writer to give him the due applause.

The write up could be more interesting if the writer could throw some light about how Mamunur Rashid has achieved his success or how he could build CITI Bangladesh from grounds up. But I am not sure whether the writer is well aware of how does Bangladesh CITI bank and/or Mr. Mamunur Rashid operates or even how the Bangladesh corporate world operates.

Anyway I can share some of my learning about Bangladesh CITI and Mr. Mamunur Rashid as I have been fortunate to be part of some business deals making in which Mamunur Rashid was also involved closely. This may help us to appreciate Mamunur Rashid, his success, or his style of working. I have found that Mamunur Rashid is hands on type of professional rather than operating from infamous banking bin counter. For example, about 3 years back I saw that Mamunur Rashid himself went to make a presentation to the MD of a medium sized local business though the business deal was not so lucrative or promising. But still he did not depend on his RMs(Relationship Managers) though HSBC or Standard Chartered always send RMs in such cases or at least in the initial stages. This attribute of his working style(personal involvement in client management) made him successful to build and grow the business fast. But it also says that he may not be the kind of leaders who would like to develop his followers. Once upon a time HSBC or Stand Chat guys used to call him a GLORIFIED RM with the designation of CEO. But I am not sure whether they call him the same today.

It is really true that Mamunur Rashid actively manages many thing( not everything) in Bangladesh. But there is a big “IF”. What is this IF? It is if the client is of Bangladeshi origin or if the client’s Global or Regional HQ is not having any existing relationship with CITI’s regional HQ in Mumbai. CITI Bangladesh is under the purview Mr. Sanjay Nayar, CEO of CITI Bank India as he is also the regional head of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Mr. Rashid often travels to Mumbai to report to Mr. Nayar. So, NY bankers may not be interfering much into Mamunur Rashid’s work but Mr. Sanjay Nayar might be having ample time to dictate Mamunur Rashid at least on big business decisions. For example, I was involved in an M&A deal about 3 yrs back. For that deal we raised a big amount of money to do the deal in the form of LBO. It was a big competition amongst CITI, Stand Chat and another foreign bank to get the business. CITI at some point cut the interest rate to such an extent that we could just took the loan from CITI and deploy it into any fixed deposit scheme and earn at least 1% profit. In this big rate cut decision Mamunur Rashid was not having any say because the whole deal was controlled from Mumbai and locals were just intermediary (in writer’s words they might be called SOME PUPPETs exchanging papers and emails) between us and Mumbai regional HQ of CITI. I thought that Mamunur Rashid might have changed that scenario and now a day he has gained lot more independence and authority. So, I just phoned some people who are well connected with CITI Bangladesh and its high officials including Mamunur Rashid. It seems that scenario has not changed so much. Mumbai HQ is still having the last say regarding any big business decisions or clients having tie up with CITI in some other countries before. For example, I have heard that for the Grameen IPO, major decisions and guidelines are coming from Mumbai. In this vein, Mamunur Rashid may not be so different deal from those so called glorified plant managers with CEO designation. What makes Mamunur Rashid different is his leadership initiative to promote Bangladesh as an attractive investment destination as well as transforming himself as a thought leader in banking/ FOREX or monetary/fiscal/investment policy. For example, he was instrumental in arranging for the Bangladesh Investor Summit in 2007.

ridita said...


Kazi Kamal Hossain said...

not only citi i think its common in all banks...being an ex MNC and a banker now, i think our corporate sector is yet to be global standard....@ridita

rehal said...

Despite that what Ridita has mentioned, for M.R no indian or other nationals has got chance to work for citi bangladesh. Usualy it is a common practice in other MNC operates in Bangladesh.Here, citi is totally runs by the Bangladeshi talents.

Kas said...

Mamunur Rashid joined in BRAC Business School as director.

AMS-02 said...

This is very unfortunate for the country that it always fails to identify Foxes while in search of Lions in all sectors.There are some talents who cries down others, elbows fellow colleagues like musclemen which does not require any business performance or social wisdom - but being a little wicked only. They of course learn from environment - a very good trait of course.

Md. Kamrul Islam said...

can you believe it??? Mamun Rashid has copied my elder brother's daily star article and published in the Prothom Alo (30 April) !! here is my brother's daily star piece published on 6 April 2011:

Here is Mamunur Rashid's Prothom Alo piece published on 30 April 2011 :