By Syed M. Aslam
Oct 04 - 10, 1999
Sirajuddin Aziz met and was
mesmerised by late Agha Hassan Abidi, the founder of now defunct BCCI (Bank of Credit and
Commerce International) when he was still a student, pursuing Masters degree at the
University of Karachi.
Sirajuddin joined BCCI and held various responsible positions in the
Bank during his fifteen-year association, but all of it overseas. His last posting, at the
time of closure was Country Manager, China.
He was one of the founder member of Union Bank Limited, a local private
bank, in 1991. He joined the Bank as executive vice president and was promoted to the post
of general manager for the south region in 1995. Today, Sirajuddin is the Regional General
Manager, with additional responsibilities for treasury and financial institutions
division, at the Union Bank.
During his banking career of 22 years Sirajuddin has travelled
extensivley what he says between the UK and New Zealand though he has never
crossed the Atlantic ocean.
Sirajuddin is not only well travelled but is also a well read person
who contributes articles on varied subjects to local newspapers. He also writes English
poetry many of which have made the annual anthologies of the National Library of Poets USA
in 1994, 1996 and 1998. He has also received Editors choice award in 1994 and 1996
from the National Library of Poets, USA.
Aziz is fond of reading and his special interest is in biographies and
auto-biographies of personalities. His collection includes several books of Prophet
Muhammad, (Peace be upon him), other religious leaders and personalities like Napoleon,
Reck Kaun Yew, Yasir Arafat, etc.
PAGE: What motivates you?
Sirajuddin Aziz: I am a person who is driven more by a much larger
canvass than banking. Banking is necessary for my livelihood but my passion remains in
developing a proper understanding on human psyche. Motivation is totally an internal force
and nothing external seems to propel me. I feel, it is based on very strong foundation and
fundamentals of certain universal truths. Principles cant be altered by position of
authority, creed, geographical location or religious barrier as these truths pervade and
cut across all and any such distinctions.
PAGE: Does these universal truths ever come in conflict with the
demands of profession that you are in?
S A: Banking is a ruthless profession which hardly allows any room for
compassion as you are dealing with the money which belongs to the public. You have a duty
and obligation to ensure its safe custodianship and judicious utilisation. No, there is no
personal conflict because these universal truths help me exercise all the necessary values
in the discharge of my duty of care and obligations. However, I must add, that I have to
find forums outside banking to keep these fundamentals not only alive but also to
influence my day-to-day working. Most business leaders feel that they can draw strength
from their positional powers. I, however, am a firm believer to the contrary these
powers should always remain in their armament but only as a deterrent. They should never
be used, instead, the business leaders should use their personal power to motivate others
and lead by inspiration.
PAGE: In our society exactly the opposite is happening. Why?
S A: It is so because we have lost track of the fundamental truths. I
firmly believe that in order to be a leader you have to be a follower first. An
appropriate example is that of the US president. Though he is the most powerful leader of
the world, the US President has to be a good follower of the norms and the rules and
regulations of his society. Good leader also knows when to step back and let somebody else
PAGE: What you feel is the reason for the decline of the banking in
Pakistan and what are the remedies?
S A: The major problem has been the political influence when banks were
nationalised in the early 1970s and the resultant political motivated loaning. In
addition, the system is totally embedded in an obstinate bureaucracy. After
nationalisation a lot of audits of these banks were conducted but unfortunately all banks
associated with this fiasco of political loanings never took time to indulge in the
audit of the conscience. It is imperative that the bureaucratic setup must be
removed immediately. A major overhauling of the loaning policy is imperative and such
policies should not be made expedient to politics.
PAGE: Do you witness any improvement?
S A: During last three years a dramatic turnaround has taken place at
the three major public sector banks United, Habib and National. They have
accomplished a remarkable feat. I feel should these banks continue with their policies for
next three years they will give a run to both the local and foreign banks. These banks are
sleeping giants and if their respective managements are allowed to have free hand they
will make major in-roads into the market niche currently held by foreign and local private
PAGE: What message would you like to give to PAGE readers?
S A: I am tempted to quote Do unto others what you want others to
do unto you." B