‘You can’t achieve suc­cess with­out a team’

China Daily (USA) - - HONG KONG - By SO­PHIE HE in Hong Kong so­phiehe@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

Vivek Pathak, direc­tor of East Asia and Pa­cific Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Fi­nance Cor­po­ra­tion, has trav­eled all over the globe for bank­ing and fi­nance, but his jour­ney to the in­dus­try was purely by ac­ci­dent.

He stud­ied physics in the Uni­ver­sity of Mum­bai in In­dia in the 1980s, but his real pas­sion was pre­vi­ously in academia.

“You know in In­dia, ev­ery par­ent wants their child to be­come an en­gi­neer, doc­tor, ac­coun­tant or lawyer, but at that time I wanted to be an aca­demic. I was keen to do re­search and teach­ing,” says Pathak.

He ad­mits he soon lost his in­ter­est in that field, in­stead switch­ing to a job in ad­ver­tis­ing. Af­ter three years, Pathak made an­other change, choos­ing mar­ket re­search where he worked for con­sumer prod­uct com­pa­nies.

“Then by ac­ci­dent I joined the bank­ing in­dus­try, as they are look­ing for some­one who has my kind of ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Pathak first worked at Bank of Amer­ica Corp, and then moved to ABN AMRO Bank in Thai­land. It was in Thai­land where he faced the Asia fi­nan­cial cri­sis head-on in 1997.

“What re­ally hit me hard was how banks and com­pa­nies that were very pos­i­tive about East Asia, sud­denly de­cided to pull out due to the cri­sis.”

It was this re­al­iza­tion that led to Pathak think­ing about work­ing with an or­ga­ni­za­tion that is driven by profit, but some­where like IFC which will stay put and sup­port coun­tries when a com­pany or econ­omy is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a down­turn.

“So when I got an of­fer from the IFC to cover the Mid­dle East and North Africa op­er­a­tion (in Oc­to­ber 1998), I de­cided to take it im­me­di­ately,” he said.

It was his time spent in Pak­istan and Egypt that Pathak con­sid­ers the most re­ward­ing of his ca­reer so far. He has also been posted in “fron­tier” mar­kets coun­tries in­clud­ing Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

“Go­ing to Afghanistan was not a fun time — there were no phones, no ho­tels. I ac­tu­ally had to go to an of­fice and seek an ap­point­ment from the ad­min­is­tra­tor, and they told me to come back in the af­ter­noon. So you go back at 4:30 pm and then you go to the next of­fice,” he re­calls.

Pathak re­mem­bers the chal­leng­ing work in the re­gion, in­clud­ing es­tab­lish­ing mi­cro­fi­nance bank­ing in Afghanistan, and first in­vest­ments in Iraq. The work was dif­fi­cult but re­ward­ing, and drove him to chase suc­cess, he says.

He ad­mires man­agers who are will­ing to give credit and sup­port their growth to those that work un­der their lead­er­ship.

“I worked for this one boss, who did a lot of work, and when the time came to give credit, he would send a memo to the big boss and say that it was done by the team. This is some­one I looked up to.”

Pathak also be­lieves no mat­ter how bril­liant you are, you can’t be suc­cess­ful with­out a mo­ti­vated team. That’s why he has al­ways been try­ing to be the boss that he once looked up to.

His busi­ness phi­los­o­phy con­tains three ba­sic as­pects: hon­esty, hard work, and to work smart.

“These are things that I tell my team, and what I can give them in re­turn is that I will back them up when there are is­sues, and I will stand up for them and give them credit.”

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