Arif Ainul Suman is the Executive Director, Corporate Banking, Standard Chartered Bank. A topper in his batch from IBA, Mr. Suman passionately pursued his career with leading multi-national financial institutions past 18-years in the arena of providing financing solutions and risk management for leading local corporate clientele. Besides providing Working Capital Solutions and Trade Finance Structuring, he has substantial experience in Specialized Financing and Advisory. He is considered a pioneer in power sector having been involved in raising financing for approximately 20% of country’s private sector generation capacity.
Why did you choose your career in the finance sector? Was it because you were passionate about it or was the decision based on the job market condition?
I always had an interest in finance. As Bangladesh is an emerging country with 7.2% growth rate, the banking sector offered a very prosperous career at that time. I also chose corporate banking as it was challenging, and would push me to be at my best. I knew I would be learning a lot in that glamorous industry. Plus, it was good for strengthening my network, which would benefit me in the long run.
What does success look like to you? How do you think millennials should collectively define success?
Success is very subjective. It differs from person to person. In order to seek success, people must love what they do. I don’t judge success in someone else’s eyes. We all must have long-term goals and need to stick to it to achieve success. For example, a doctor achieves success in later years, but there are also professions which offer success immediately.
Is there any specific accomplishment or failure that shaped your career?
In my mid-career, I couldn’t stand up to my expectation. We must understand that life won’t always offer roses, there will be thorns and obstacles, which we need to overcome and survive. Initially, a fresh graduate might face difficulty in getting the right job. Even, I faced a lot of challenges finding a job during my time, despite being the second student in my class. Most of my friends and classmates were working already, but I was struggling back then. I could have gone for any job, but I knew my first job will shape up my career, so I was patient about it and waited for the right opportunity and the right time. So, my advice here would be to not let yourself drown in frustration.
What are the key attributes that you look for in candidates?
I specifically look for people who can take initiative themselves. Secondly, I also look for students who have excelled in academics. Although it’s not the sole measurement tool, it gives a perception, whether the candidate takes the task seriously. If a candidate isn’t serious about studies, there is no guarantee that he/she will be serious about the task given in the office.
Do you have a mentor? If so, what traits do you seek in a mentor?
Balancing work and family life is important. I look for mentors who can balance it. In pursuit of money and status, we tend to ignore our family (loved ones), but it doesn’t bring any good in the long run.
Youth should look into behavioral aspects. Technical knowledge will be taught by many people, but life lessons are more valuable.
In 17 years you became executive director of a global bank from an officer in sales and marketing division, what are some of the key skills that took you this place?
No one can do all the work alone. Team work is important. For that, building trust within colleagues and clients is important, or else quality work won’t be delivered. Second, candidates need to differentiate themselves. When a third party or stakeholder recognizes your effort, it adds more value and motivation. Third, Almighty helped me a lot. I was at the right place at the right time. Honesty and work ethics are important in the banking industry. So all these simple matters will differentiate people.
There is a common trend for millennials to do workshops. Some pursue technical workshops and others go for motivational skills. How relevant are they?
Technical workshops are useful for fresh graduates as employers look for that. Whereas, on the behavioral skills, it’s vital for mid-level positions. Leadership, people management skills, communication, and ability to network distinguish people and candidates need to build rapport with people to get the job done with ease.
What are the most useful resources that you recommend to someone looking to gain a better perspective on his/her career?
Knowledge is very easy to get in this globalized era right now. People must read to keep themselves updated, as it’s a very competitive world. Reading newspapers like Prothom Alo, Daily Observer, and Financial Express will be helpful. All these accumulated knowledge will reflect in the interview rounds and also when someone senior in the organization approaches the candidate for help. When I was a fresh graduate, to enhance my knowledge, I used to read sports star, sports world, and film awards magazine as they fascinated me.
Candidates can also do courses relevant to his/her passion or the industry they want to work for. As I do infrastructure projects, I keep myself updated by reading papers on Energy & Power. I also read some internal journals of the organization.
When should the youth start to prepare for the job market?
First and second year students should concentrate on academics as it is difficult to pull up grades/CGPA afterwards. Students should think about the job market in their final year. If someone wants to do Masters, he/she should complete it first, from the perspective of Bangladesh.
What are the other professions youth should target?
If I could go back in time, I would finish my Masters in the teaching profession. As Bangladesh will become Middle Income Country by 2021, the number of universities is increasing. So teaching profession will boom, also it’s a much respected job. I believe, students who are really good in academics should stick in that side and should not limit themselves in a normal job. In the teaching profession, they can also be a consultant for organizations to better the society.
People who are good with Accounting, can pursue CA or CFA. This profession is also valuable abroad.
Do you have any concluding remarks?
Never submerge yourself in frustration. There is a right time for everything and we have to be patient and decisive with it.
Disclaimer: The opinion mentioned and or expressed in this interview is only to be associated with the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the opinion of any organization.