Life’s Work: An Interview With Mamun Rashid, Managing Partner, PwC Bangladesh

Life’s Work: An Interview With Mamun Rashid, Managing Partner, PwC Bangladesh

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Mamun Rashid, Managing Partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers(PwC) Bangladesh, is a voracious reader, “growing up, I had spent more time with books than anything else and even these days’ books are my best friends,” Says Mr. Mamun. Son of a Government employee, Mr. Mamun spent his childhood in different parts of the country, “I had a fascinating childhood with diverse experiences,” he says, “thanks to my father who was in a transferable Government job which took us to all corners of the country.” The blend of these two things shows in his personality.

Mr. Mamun has a diverse career spanning multiple sectors and countries. Prior to joining PwC Bangladesh, he was the CEO of Citibank N.A., Bangladesh, the first Bangladeshi CEO of an American Bank. He started his career at ANZ Grindlays Bank in Dhaka and Mumbai. In 1993, he moved to Standard Chartered Bank where he successfully built up treasury and financial institutions businesses in Bangladesh.

Mr. Mamun has been teaching various business subjects for the last 20 years as an adjunct and full-time professor and has authored 12 books on contemporary business and economic issues.

In this interview, Mr. Mamun walks us through his early life and upbringing, reflects on his journey to what he is doing today, trials and tribulations he has had to face throughout his career, shares his thoughts on the state and the future of financial industry in Bangladesh, talks about his work at PwC Bangladesh, PwC Bangladesh operation, its internal culture of collaboration and his ambition for PwC Bangladesh going forward, discusses how empathy and creating opportunities for people to grow and lead informs his management philosophy, shares his thoughts on leadership and why leadership is not about the self, and growing an organization, ponders upon the meaning of life and explores the eminent importance of gratitude and creating value for others.

Future Startup

Please tell us about yourself and your journey to what you are doing today.

Mamun Rashid

I had a fascinating childhood with diverse experiences, thanks to my father who was a government servant and in a transferable job.

I spent my childhood in different parts of the country including Sylhet, various sub-districts of Sylhet and then Sylhet district headquarter, Noakhali and a large part in Chittagong and then in Dhaka.

I started my schooling in Sylhet where I completed my primary education. I did my secondary and higher secondary from Faujdarhat Cadet College in Chittagong and then I studied Economics, Honors, and Masters, in Jahangirnagar University, and then my MBA from the UK.

There is a story in between. After JU, I applied at IBA for an MBA and got the chance. But, I could not even start it because by the time my MBA class was scheduled to start I took a full-time job at a Bank. I had other pressures to be established early – kind of a she-pressure. My lady needed an address a definitive relationship. So, I thought of starting a little early.

I started looking for a job from the moment I sat for my first honors final exam. I was one of the early entrants to job market from my batch that too into the banking profession, not a so loving profession. But you can create a lot of impacts which I will come to in a bit.

I joined a local bank in 1984. My honors exam was not finished yet. After joining the bank, I worked for a few weeks and then I took leave for finishing my honors exam. However, after completing honors, I didn’t go back to the bank. Instead, I joined a very interesting profession that I always wanted to do – journalism. I joined The Daily Sangbad, a leading daily in the mid-eighties, as a journalist. I became their editorial assistant as well as I used to write on different economic issues and edit the economic page.

My editor was a celebrity journalist, late Mr. Bazlur Rahman, who happens to be the husband of our very illustrious agriculture minister and dedicated political worker Mrs. Motiya Chowdhuri.

Mr. Rahman was kind of a role model and mentor to me. He taught me what to write, what not to write, who could be the target market, why am I writing and the logic behind publishing a newspaper. That was, although in a different context, my first real-life experience of understanding your target market.

In those days journalism couldn’t bring you much money. It was even hard to earn reasonable money. Unless you are a highly dedicated and idealistic type of person you don’t join journalism. Journalism was not seen as a stable profession by would be spouse’s parents!

Eventually, I again decided to pursue a bank job. For that banking would give me stability. I must confess – after almost 33 years now – that this was because of the influence of my in-laws, at that time would be in-laws, who whispered into the ears of their daughter (laughter).

I had other pressures to be established early – kind of a she-pressure. My lady needed an address. She needed a definitive relationship. So, I thought of starting a little early.

Banks used to pay a good salary. There was a bank owned by the same owner of the newspaper I was working for. I was little surprised when I found out the bankers, in many instances quite mediocre people than I, often used to get paid much more than what I was getting paid despite the fact that I was doing all the hard-hitting intellectual works.

I worked, albeit briefly at a local bank as I mentioned earlier, and this time I decided to pursue a job at a multinational bank. I came from Cadet College as I already told and studied economics at university. Some of my business graduate friends were joining ANZ Grindlays Bank. So I decided to follow them.

One of my senior Cadet College brothers was a mid-level manager at that British bank so I decided to seek his guidance. Cadet College camaraderie is different. One cadet would do almost anything for another cadet. His help was to the extent of allowing me to sit for the written exam. That was the highest favor one could do. My result would have helped me to sit for the exam but I did not want to take a chance coming from a very humble background, I thought why not I utilize my network as a former cadet. He did a mini-interview of me and gave me a break in my life, I would say.

Afterward, I attended the exams and other procedures and eventually, got selected and joined ANZ Grindlays Bank where I worked for little over 7 years.

I was posted at the treasury department which was yet another break for me in many ways. At university, I was involved in cultural movement and a bit of in politics which helped me to develop people skills. I could easily win over same-minded people working in the central bank as well as at my bank. I worked hard and easily managed to attract the attention of my seniors.

My rise was quick at ANZ was quick. I was rated as number one performer at ANZ bank for 5 consecutive years and I was being promoted almost every year. I was a star performer which raised my expectations and might be company’s expectations from me as well.

After working for almost five years in the treasury I was transferred to the corporate banking upon my request. I did quite well in corporate banking as well. I booked the highest number of relationships. That said, I had to face new kind of challenges which led me to pursue other opportunities.

I had an excellent track record at treasury management. I made treasury so profitable that even today, by the grace of Almighty, if you ask anybody that who has made the best out of treasury business possibly they would utter this humble person’s name. When I started to look for opportunities, Standard Chartered Bank and American Express Bank both came forward to recruit me.

I thought about both opportunities and finally decided to join Standard Chartered Bank at their treasury department to build their treasury business from scratch. I did very well. In fact, I was recognized as the best treasurer in entire Africa, Middle East, and South Asia region.

After my success in the treasury department, I was given another job to build our Financial Institutions business. We did not have the financial institutions business at SCB at that time. I created the FI business for Standard Chartered Bank. The good part was that I was duly recognized for all the good works that I did. This time I got the Chairman Award for achieving the highest growth in Financial Institutions department that I created single-handedly out of the treasury.

Around that time, there was a problem with regard to the quality of the corporate banking assets. An unfortunate marching order was issued for few of my distinguished colleagues who were working in the corporate banking.

After working for a long time in the treasury, I had developed a fascination for the corporate banking. Even while managing the treasury and FI business, I would sit for all the qualifying exams to become a risk manager.

In many instances, I was not welcomed. But I’m not giving up type in nature. I persisted. I had to seek help from some of my senior bosses in order to sit for a qualifying exam to work in the corporate banking and risk management. I sat for the exams and did very well. It was not all my credits though, many of my seniors at ANZ used to love me and they helped me with advice and guidance.

So when the quality compromise thing in the corporate banking portfolio happened I received a call from my regional general manager who offered me a sweeping job to bring the corporate banking out of the mess.

In between, my treasury boss offered me a job to become the regional treasury sales manager sitting in Dubai earning a tax-free salary. I politely said no to him because my Guru told me every job is a good job for you provided you can make a difference. Every job is a good job for you provided your predecessor did not do a good job. I realized that I could do a good job in the corporate banking, where I always wanted to work and make a difference given the circumstances. So I decided to take the job.

It was not a popular decision. I took it against the wish of a lot of my friends and family members. There was even a rumor that Mamun had done something wrong so they gave him a sweeper job to fix the portfolio, to improve the security, to improve the collateral, to exit some of the relationships and do wallet sizings.

Despite all the challenges I took it. Apart from the passion for the job, I also wanted to prove some people wrong who doubted my ability to thrive in corporate banking.

I became the sweeper and then the re-audit came. After the audit, auditors wrote that ‘what Mamun has managed to achieve within a span of 6 months is beyond excellent’. Again, my boss took it positively. He called me one day, ‘man the auditors spoke very highly of you’. He was a very tough nut to crack. His name was John and was nicknamed as DNA – daily number always, a purely number driven person. He used to tell us don’t speak English, speak numbers. Now DNA knows that I can get things done and that I can make things happen.

After my success at sweeping, I was named the Head of Corporate Banking. Having said that, making it work at sweeping was doubly difficult because I received very little support. Firstly, it was hard to engage people because they were the ones who were involved in it in the first place, to some extent. Moreover, I was considered as an outsider and new to the job and had to put a lot of things together from scratch. Nobody took me on my face value. But I worked hard and took help from my seniors at ANZ Grindlays Bank.

During my time as Head of Corporate Banking, we did a good job. Around this time my general manager told me something interesting: he told me that “we want to become bigger and we cannot grow our operations in this region only by growing our branch network. We need to acquire someone.” He asked for my suggestion on potential players and I told him that ANZ Grindlays Bank would make a great acquisition from a growth perspective.

Finally, the decision was made and since I proposed the ANZ Grindlays Bank’s name, they made me one of the global acquisition team members. This was another lift in my life. It was my first experience in M&A. I tried to do a good job, confidentially. I worked with a terrific guy, our general manager of UK and Europe at that time, who was named as the acquisition team leader. It was a brilliant team and I learned a tremendous amount from working with all the great people. In fact, I was one of the humblest and youngest members of the team. We smoothly managed the acquisition of ANZ Grindlays Bank by Standard Chartered Bank.

After the merger, I was made the corporate and investment banking head of the merged Bank instead of the very illustrious person who was holding the same role at ANZ bank. ANZ was bigger, their balance sheet was bigger than Standard Chartered and we kept on telling that it is a merger of equals to pacify all the people and neutralize criticism.

However, in order to roll out all the Standard Chartered Bank process, platforms, and values we also had to make some difficult decisions. I was made the corporate and investment banking head as part of that decision which put me in a difficult situation in the Bank. Many of my seniors from ANZ was on my team. It was a tall order for me. I had also my share of failure. I cannot claim today when I look back that I managed the situation well.

At the same time, my boss was not also very happy and comfortable because many of his lieutenants from ANZ were not accommodated because somebody had to be brought from Standard Chartered itself because they were the acquirer and knew how the bank should be run.

The good part for me was that I worked for ANZ for seven and a half years and I worked for Standard Chartered for eight and a half years. I was the best possible candidate who could manage the books of both the banks, who could manage the people of both the banks. But the expectation was also pretty high.

At one point in time, I really asked myself, I have got an unhappy boss without doing anything wrong personally because he had to let go many of his people. Many of my seniors who had to report to me due to the changes were not very welcoming towards me, because Bangladesh is an age driven society, junior will always remain junior and senior will always remain senior, making things even more difficult for me.

Around this time I received a call from the Citibank N.A. In between, I was so fed up with so much hostility that I asked myself, do I deserve this? I confided to one of my friends about the challenges I was facing at work. Then I shared this with my HR and I knew he had very little to do. Despite he offered me a project in Dubai. I knew it was an unidentified growth position, there was nothing much for a marketing person like me to add, I politely declined. Since I worked really hard on various difficult projects and contributed to the merger, they wanted to compensate me. But things were not simply working out.

So I was considering a move. Around this time, I came across an opportunity at a private bank as the additional managing director with more benefits than what I was getting at Standard Chartered Bank at that time along with a commitment that within six months time I would take over the MD role. So I was offered higher pay than the current MD at that time to attract me from a foreign bank with a proven track record.

While considering the opportunity, I received a call, one that I just mentioned, from Citibank NA. A gentleman named David called me saying that Mamun Citibank is looking for my replacement with a good understanding of the local market as well as a proven track record in managing the impaired portfolio, restructuring portfolio, recovering classified loans, and more and they have identified you and can we talk? Afterward, I was interviewed confidentially by many. I had to visit India, London for interviews. At that time Regional Head of Citibank used to sit in Brussels. After a final interview, they gave me an offer at 13% discount on my present salary that I was enjoying at SCB. I asked the HR, c’mon man you are running after me and I was almost joining another job at 25% more than what I was drawing and here you are asking me to join you at 13% discount. That gentleman smiled and told me that ‘welcome to the Citibank my friend, it is called the brand discount’. Having said that, if you do a good job, as David told us about you, we would seriously consider you for the CEO of Citibank N.A., Bangladesh, he added. And that you would become the first local CEO of an American bank.

After much thought, I decided to try my luck and that’s how I became the youngest CEO in the history of the banking industry in Bangladesh at the age of 40 and that too of an American Bank and that too in a predominantly Muslim country after 9/11. I was extremely humbled by that fact.

To become a CEO of a bank, you need 15 years of experience as per the Bangladesh bank guideline. By that time I crossed the 15 years threshold.

Every story is a unique story. It is easy to interpret the life of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates looking backward and find a correlation between dropping out and success. But in reality, it is not that simple. Life is complex and there is more to every simple narrative. Look beyond the surface. Explore deeply and passionately. Struggle and embrace challenges and believe that it will lead you to somewhere.

After joining, I worked hard and we managed to become one of the fastest growing franchises in the Citibank network. I received a handful of awards during this period of time. I got the US state department award for creating corporate excellence in Bangladesh which made my position stronger within the Citibank network. And then came the offer to go beyond and I was also preparing myself for going beyond. But those offers did not come out to be that attractive to me. After much thought, I decided to leave Citibank N.A. When I left Citibank N.A. as their chief executive officer, I was one of the best performers in this region.

After much thought, I shared my decision with my seniors that I don’t want to continue. But when I look back today I think possibly my departure from Citibank NA could be a little bit more respectful. What happened, unfortunately, after 5 years, most of my bosses with whom I worked closely left the bank. I had to adjust with new bosses. Not necessarily who knew my background and story or who had the same commitment toward Bangladesh sitting in Hong Kong, or Thailand or Singapore. Eventually, it created a lonely environment for me. I was kind of feeling isolated. When they offered me to go to one of the African markets, I said that I’m not interested that led to eventual separation in a hasty manner.

I had a bit of uncertainty after Citibank. But again I had and still have a lot of admirers, and supporters in the society. After Citi, I decided to look beyond banking.

While working full-time as a banker, I had also been involved in teaching for many years in different universities including IBA, North South University, the Independent University among others and I still am. I was also in the academic council of BRAC University for many years.

I decided to pursue teaching as a full-time career. I spoke to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, a person I deeply admire for his incredible contribution to the country, and he invited me to build his business school at BRAC University and I became the professor and the Director of BRAC Business School.

I joined BRAC Business School in April 2011 when I was released from Citibank N.A. I thoroughly enjoyed that job. I put in a lot of energy, a lot of new ideas and I thought I did a good job. I also faced a tremendous amount of challenges because I was the doing man. I was doing so many things, creating so many avenues. Students used to like me but I also caused a little bit of discomfort for many of my colleagues. I did a lot of things during my tenure at BRAC University including organizing debate competitions, arranging seminars, symposium and pushing students in all the possible ways to do better.

After working for a couple of years, I decided to leave and start my own organization. I launched a financial think tank, one that I always wanted to launch, called Financial Excellence Limited. I am the principal sponsor of Financial Excellence ltd which works in the field of capacity building and organizational development of the entire financial sector. I managed to build a wonderful team having partners from the banking sector, insurance, capital market, micro-finance, and IT. We realized from the beginning that technology is at the core of things and we have to be very pro-tech in order to thrive.

We took a leading technology firm, four institutions and 10 individuals with track records of working mostly in the foreign banks, foreign insurance companies and put together this beautiful institution. The organization has been doing well and giving dividends for last several years.

We have worked with around 5000 banking, insurance, and capital market resources over the past few years. We are an independent organization and never took on external funding.

Then I was also the principal sponsor of country’s first venture capital firm, BD Venture Limited. BD Venture has earned names in the market and has been doing some very important work to support disruptive community and startups.

Afterward, we tried to start an Insurance company. I started a dialogue with one of the largest life insurance operators in Japan. They were also very eager to come to Bangladesh. We did a good job putting together everything. I am so grateful to the honorable finance minister who gave us approval on time. Unfortunately, when we were working on the project and about to get started, Holy Artisan incident happened. After that, our Japanese partners decided not to go forward with the project due to the security concerns. They sent us a fantastic letter and even compensated us for the work we did in the field as principal sponsor. Consequently, my dream of putting up a life insurance company did not materialize.

Then I wanted to put up a pharmaceutical company. The pharmaceutical sector is doing very well in Bangladesh and there is a solid opportunity to do more. I along with some of my seniors and their friends and a well-known business leader in the country, we tried to put together a pharmaceutical company. But it did not happen at the end for several reasons. If Allah gives me a long life, I will again experiment with putting together a pharmaceutical company.

I first came across PwC while working at FinExcel. We had collaborated with PwC to help driving transformation in some of the banks in Bangladesh. That’s how I came to know PwC. So they knew me and I knew them.

After a while, PwC approached me when they decided to establish an operation in Bangladesh. Initially, I couldn’t figure out what am I going to do with a well-known legacy audit firm, PwC. I was aware of their technology stake since we worked with them but was not fully aware of their diverse advisory capacity.

I have always been passionate about giving back to my country. In the past, I was considered for many senior regulatory roles but it did not happen for many reasons. One of the reasons is that I am known to be too close to an individual by the name Dr. Muhammad Yunus. There are people, my well-wishers and who believe that I would be able to make a meaningful contribution to the country, who champion my cause but there are also push back for my associations and opinions at times. I did not take many lucrative opportunities to go abroad and make it big there because I wanted to give back to my country and that spirit remains intact.

When PwC opportunity came along, I thought about it and then I realized that it would better prepare me for serving my country in the future. I looked back and asked myself who is the best finance minister in the history of Bangladesh and the name came – it is Mr. Saifur Rahman who was a terrific person and a brilliant driver of growth for our economy, even the present political leadership has got deep respect for him and would recognize his contribution and he was nonetheless a chartered accountant. He was nonetheless a partner of an accounting firm and audit firm. That sort of inspired me.

I wanted to learn more about the audit, technology, and transformation. That is when I thought of taking a few steps back and learn again, learn new things, help companies to go further, and move forward, facilitate foreign companies that want to come to Bangladesh and help local companies to transform and grow. I thought PwC could be the best platform that would allow me to see and learn all these things.

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My biggest challenge now is finding and retaining good people who will enable us to deliver success to our clients.

Future Startup

Tell us more about your work at PwC Bangladesh.

Mamun Rashid

I joined PwC in October 2015. It has been two years and I’m enjoying the ride. I joined here along with two of my partners to look after tax, audit, advisory and to look after advisory based technology services.

We also do M&As, deals, cyber security, forensic, sustainable development or responsible business advisory, environmental and social risk management. Under the audit, we do risk audit, system, and process audit, internal audit, international fund engagement review and we have got a lot of other things going. We have a local partner organization we collaborate with for auditory purposes.

We now have over 234 business partners who avail our services in Bangladesh.

PwC’s future in Bangladesh is identified with the potential of the Bangladesh economy.

Our biggest challenge is, as I was telling, people. They are not tuned to consulting and advisory roles. Youngsters coming out of the business school, or the accounting firms, either want to join an audit firm or they want to become CFO, account manager, or they want to join telecom, Grameenphone or Robi or Standard Chartered Bank, or Citibank, or GlaxoSmithKline or Unilever.

They usually don’t want to be a consultant and learn more and work independently.

We are slowly overcoming these challenges. We have hired brilliant engineers, many brilliant young accountants, chartered accountants, ACCA’s, CFA’s. However, we need to increase the number.

My biggest challenge now is finding and retaining good people who will enable us to deliver success to our clients.

Some of my colleagues are already world class. I need more. We are trying to attract some of the Bangladeshi talents working for PwC network in North-America, Europe, Australia and elsewhere and bringing them to Bangladesh.

We have already opened up dialogues, some of them already showed interest, some of them are being interviewed, and we hope to figure it out soon.

Future Startup

You have several decades of experience in teaching and building and helping companies to grow in diverse sectors spanning multiple countries, what are the biggest lessons from all those years?

Mamun Rashid

Work hard and don’t get involved in any controversies around procurement recommendation, recommending brands or recommending any loans or any cover-ups. Protecting your integrity and reputation should always be a top priority.

When you are working at a global organization it is better you take a global approach. Try to turn yourself into a global citizen. Perform and play the role of an international manager. Otherwise, your job will be easily swallowed up by the international managers.

Often we spend too much time in thinking inside our head while taking action is the antidote to all our doubt and challenges. When in doubt, take action.

I believe it is important to have role models. I look up to a couple of people I deeply admire. Some of them are: Dr. Akbar Ali Khan who has immensely influenced my lifestyle, late Mr. Saifur Rahman who did a fantastic job of transforming our economy for the better and charting new growth path for our economy, the private sector-led growth, the entrepreneurs’ led growth. He was one of the most successful finance ministers in the history of Bangladesh. Although I did not have that close experience with him. Then, of course, Professor Dr. Muhammad Yunus. He is a terrific individual, not to be known as a Nobel laureate, not to be known as the founder of Grameen Bank, as an individual and role model, he is wonderful. He will go beyond, he will hold your hand, he will come up with a childlike simplicity. You keep on cursing him Sir, where is your corporate governance? Where is your accountant? Where is your lawyer? I kept on even shouting. That guy was sitting on the chair and smiling.

I also look up to some of the institution builders like Professor Abdullah Abu Sayeed, Professor Rehman Sobhan, the founder of the CRP hospital and many other people.

I have been lucky to have some of the best teachers there. Some of them are sir Anu Muhammad of Jahangirnagar University, Professor Md. Rafique. Some of the progressive leaders like MM Akash, Tanvir Mokammel culturally and also some of the political leaders so they all shaped my way of looking at life and world.

I would like to remember my first boss in treasury late Mr. Suranjan Chakraborty who was the country credit manager of ANZ Bank at that time. He was an incredible individual and I learned a tremendous amount from him.

I am a Standard Chartered made person. They sponsored my MBA at Henley Management College. And then when I joined Citibank they sent me to Harvard and Kellogg which I remember with a sense of gratitude.

The point I wanted to make is that our life is the culmination of support from many people. Most often than not we feel otherwise that we are self-made and we received very little support moving up the ladder. In reality, it would have been impossible for me to come this far without the support of endless facilitators. A life of gratitude is a wonderful life.

Future Startup

Please give us an overview of PwC Bangladesh. How are you doing in terms of growth in Bangladesh and what are the major challenges?

Mamun Rashid

Over the last two years, 2015 to 2017, we have experienced over 100 percent growth. We are grateful to our partners including corporations, the government of Bangladesh, in particular, ICT ministry, Food ministry, Home ministry, Planning ministry, to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, DFID, USAID, GIZ and all our Development partners.

I have got a very good reason to be grateful and thankful to my Indian colleagues. Our Indian colleagues have done tremendous work over the past several years that helped us to grow.

Although there is some disconnect between India and Bangladesh, yet we have to acknowledge that India has been producing more of Sunder Pichai, Satya Nadella, Indra Nuri, and many other CEOs than many other nations in the world. Our India colleagues have been doing fantastic work for our local corporations, our government and we depend on our colleagues in India for many reasons and we are happy that we get to collaborate with them.

Bangladesh offers an incredible opportunity for growth and it has its challenges as well. Competition has been growing in every sector. In our field even more so.

Having said that, I am confident because of the knowledge our India colleagues have gathered and our UK colleagues have gathered over the years are helping us to offer better and differentiated services to our customers.

We work as a network of firms. If our clients are ready to invest, we can bring experts from any part of the world from Silicon Valley to Delhi to the UK to Germany.

Our Bangladesh business is growing pretty fast and we expect it will grow even further in the coming years. We are increasingly getting identified in the deals and acquisition territory.

In 2016 and 2017, we have done most of the MNA’s in Bangladesh. I take particular pride in the fact that we have got a fantastic deal team, supported by both our colleagues in Bangladesh and India.

We are increasingly getting identified in the management consulting, operation consulting, business process re-engineering, efficiency improvement, productivity improvement, cost rationalization, identifying the right person for the right jobs, technology intervention, ERP solution and more.

We are seeing growing opportunities in the cybersecurity space as well. We are helping companies in their transformation which is a growing need in Bangladesh.

Our life is the culmination of support from many people. Most often than not we feel otherwise that we are self-made and we received very little support moving up the ladder. In reality, it would have been impossible for me to come this far without the support of endless facilitators. A life of gratitude is a wonderful life.

Future Startup

Your LinkedIn profile says you think yourself as a banker, Economic analyst, and entrepreneur, it offers a direction about who you are as a person, then again I want to know how do you define yourself as a person?

Mamun Rashid

As I told you, possibly I am too much of a Bangladeshi. Again, because of honesty, hard work, sincerity, a bit of innovation, a bit of support from people around, I could excel at whatever I was doing. I’m content with whatever I have achieved in life and I’m grateful to Almighty for the life that I have.

However, I think that many of the works that I have done are mostly small-scale works. Many of these were all small roles. Good for me to stand out from the crowd but not good enough equity to become a country manager in another large non-Muslim country in a truly international environment

Possibly, I should have done more as an international manager, as a compatible manager who could take on a leadership role on a global scale.

We are living paradoxes and managing this paradox is life.

Number two is that I have this paradox: I am a blend of a religious or spiritual person with kind of a loud cultural activist inside me. It’s a little peculiar. At times, I struggle to find balance within myself. I think this is true for many other people. We are living paradoxes and managing this paradox is life.

Number three is that growing up, I had spent more time with books than anything else. Consequently, even these days’ books are my best friends. This is no doubt a good habit and it has been a tremendous help throughout my career. Having said that, it also has caused some limitations, for instance, I usually can’t accept crap. I am very loud snubbing people who bullshit around. It is good to give honest feedback, but it is not a good quality when you consider social aspect of things.

I got very angry if somebody unnecessarily calls me or my family members after 10 o’clock. Because I think after 10 o’clock it’s a private time. Either you sleep or you engage privately.

Many of my values are a very middle class in nature and that’s me. What my father told me about good and bad, I’m still carrying his values. I did not change much. Again it is my good side and it is my bad side.

I am a very good friend. I could not surpass my father in creating opportunities for other people, but I try to support people and have created job opportunities for many people including youngsters coming from the extremely struggling background.

Even today a guy was crying on the phone that because of me he got the job. He was calling me before calling his mother.

I came from a struggling background; I will make sure to help you if you are from a struggling background and if you are honest.

If you ask people who work with me they would probably complain about my temper. But they would also tell you that if you could tolerate that he would make sure that your life is smooth. You cannot leave him, you will feel like leaving him but you cannot leave him. This is what I have earned.

I’m involved with a few NGOs where I have been helping them streamline growth and operations. In the future, I plan to work in the field of education. I along with some of my close friends and my wife have decided to dedicate our rest of the life after retirement for development of the education sector, helping our youngsters to get international degrees. It is a social business and we also plan to give scholarships.

The challenge for the economy that I see is reform. Reform has taken a back seat. We need to reform our policies and regulations to accelerate private sector-led growth.

We have become too political in every aspect of our life. Our public institutions should operate independently so that everyone gets the justice. The existing system is unfair towards the underprivileged segment of the population.

We need to review our education system, education quality and develop a proper education system that can meet the demand of a changing world.

We need to prepare our youngster so that they can compete globally. We should send them abroad for learning and education and then when they return they will be able to better serve the country. We need more capable people in this country. There is a huge demand for talents in the market.

Then we need to be transparent when it comes to offering opportunities. People should move forward based on their merit not because of their political identity or social status. I think we seriously lack in this area and it is hurting our national progress. We should be fair so that everyone gets the opportunities they deserve. If we don’t respect talent, we would not produce them either.

Our Bangladesh business is growing pretty fast and we expect it will grow even further in the coming years.

Future Startup

How do people work at PwC Bangladesh? Please tell us about the culture at PwC Bangladesh.

Mamun Rashid

We have a rather horizontal organizational structure. We allow flexible working hours. Teams collaborate all the time and that’s at the core of how we operate.

We have a diverse group of people working here from business graduates to engineers. It offers us a unique benefit to have heterogeneous opinions and ideas and we believe diversity is where the magic lies.

We are hiring a lot of engineers. We regularly go to BUET and we want to add more engineers, more analyst, more accountants and other experts to our team.

We are equal opportunity employer and we make sure that we have zero gender discrimination and zero sexual harassment.

We are investing a lot in technology and emerging tech trends and that also informs how we operate as an organization – always happening and at the forefront of all kinds of happening.

Then we need to be transparent when it comes to offering opportunities. People should move forward based on their merit not because of their political identity or social status. I think we seriously lack in this area and it is hurting our national progress. We should be fair so that everyone gets the opportunities they deserve. If we don’t respect talent, we would not produce them either.

Future Startup

What are your plans for the Bangladesh operation in the next couple of years?

Mamun Rashid

We are focusing on four areas: working closely with the government. Now working with the Government is a broad term and it involves many things such as capacity building, enabling technology adaptation efforts, helping the government to deliver better services to the citizens with the help of technology. There are Government banks, government insurance companies, government ministries, government directories, and other relevant stakeholders.

We have worked with A2i in building up the nationwide payment architecture. Our ambition is to be identified more in the financial inclusion, inclusive growth, responsible growth, diversity, helping the government in combating the effects of climate change.

We plan to work more with large corporations such as garments and big companies from other sectors in helping them in ensuring better labor condition, better factory condition, better automation, utilizing technology as profitability driver, cost reducer, people manager – all these things.

Then comes deals and M&A. We want to be the bridge between the global companies and the local companies. There are local companies that are interested in exploring international markets and there are companies that are interested to come to Bangladesh. We want to help both of these groups to materialize their ambition.

Number three is management consultancy. Many of our corporations struggle with recruiting, technology adaptation, people management and growth, performance management, governance and other management and strategic challenges when they become large operations. We provide management consultancy services to help companies to perform better and secure a better future. Be it people or process or both. I see a very good opportunity in this space. We are recruiting new people for our management consulting team and we plan to grow the team further as we go.

Fourth is, of course, we see a lot of opportunities to help international companies with our forensic expertise. Bangladesh has become a lucrative market for an increasing number of global corporations. A lot of global corporates are coming to Bangladesh. However, although it does not feel good, Bangladesh has a bad reputation for lack of transparency and corruption. We see lots of opportunities for our forensic and investigation services through which we believe we will be able to meaningfully help companies.

Our technology stack is growing consistently and will be even more robust in the coming days. We are now offering technology solutions to the Government, corporations starting from big data analysis to transformation support to data center management to finance function effectiveness and more.

We are known for audit, tax, and regulatory services and we plan to do more of it in the coming days. We aim to be a friend of the national board of revenue.

On the audit side, we want to run more group audit, more system, and process audit, more risk audit so that our companies know they are not exposed to some unwanted and undesirable risks.

We are working in the telecom sector in capacity building of telecom sector, making them more responsible, profitable, and making them future proof, cost rationalization, technology transformation, management transformation and some forensic job and cybersecurity job.

We are working with the financial sector in a host of areas including financial sector re-engineering, productivity improvement, data mining, core banking system, wealth management, product diversification, product development, balance sheet management, risk management among other things.

We have done a very good job with regard to putting up the economic zones. We have done many of these in Bangladesh.

We have done a very good job in Australia, in India, in Sri-Lanka, in the UK, in Netherland, in Germany with regard to the ports, naval ports, and the airports. We plan to explore some of these opportunities in Bangladesh as well.

We have done some very good job with regard to the defense industry. We have done some good job with regard to the aviation industry. We plan to work with private airlines and international airlines.

We are also diverting some of our energy towards startups and disruptive communities. We are calling it disruptive community, trying to understand their mind and how we can help them to raise private equity, in raising debt.

We are helping family businesses to transform. In Bangladesh, most of the big businesses are family businesses; we are helping these companies to transform into structured corporations.

PwC has been doing a great job globally. Our Chairman Bob Moritz and our leadership have been doing an incredible job. We want to continue that great job in a more responsible way so that we do create greater values for all of our stakeholders.

Future Startup

What is your management philosophy?

Mamun Rashid

Creating space and opportunities for my people – the brilliant ones – so that they can grow and contribute is at the core of my management style.

The growth of any organization depends on the growth of its people. When your people are growing, you will grow naturally. That’s the nature and this understanding reflects in my management style when it comes to people and organization.

Future Startup

What does it take to be an effective CEO or leader?

Mamun Rashid

Leadership is not about the self, it is about the other people. In order to be effective as a leader, you have to create space for others, be able to take back seat and allow your people to take the lead. You have to be able to see things beyond what only visible and be able to philosophize.

The other thing is the team and having a deeper connection with your team so that they feel they need you.

The growth of any organization depends on the growth of its people. When your people are growing, you will grow naturally. That’s the nature and this understanding reflects in my management style when it comes to people and organization.

Future Startup

How do you work and manage time?

Mamun Rashid

I dedicate one day that is Friday for my family. It is quite tough since my wife is also a CEO and she also travels a lot. If both of us are out of the country, we try to join somewhere nearby. She flies down from somewhere, I fly down from somewhere. We spend a quality time together. We take this very seriously and make sure that we spend time together every week, invariably, because we had faced few challenges in the long past because of taking ourselves too lightly.

We try to give time to each other consciously. We have got a son who is getting ready to get into a good university in the US. A lot of his mother’s time is going to that. That’s my family affairs.

I write, although not much these days, mostly write on the Saturdays. I have some journalist friends who help me a lot. During the weekdays, it is as usual: meetings, works, and office.

I read every day. I dedicate two hours either in the morning or in the late night studying things from Katrina Kaif’s life to aeronautics to Donald Trump. I have a diverse reading interest.

Leadership is not about the self, it is about the other people. In order to be effective as a leader, you have to create space for others, be able to take back seat and allow your people to take the lead. You have to be able to see things beyond what only visible and be able to philosophize.

Future Startup

What do you think about life?

Mamun Rashid

Life is all about creating value for others. The greatest satisfaction of life comes from our willingness to contribute to the world. It is what makes life meaningful and inspires us to move forward.

It is also about creating opportunities for your future. If you are not creating opportunity, you won’t be remembered. Don’t bullshit around, people will get to know. Although many of us think that we can game the system, be sure that you can’t for long.

Add value to the lives of others. Life is transitional in nature. Tomorrow you will not be holding the position of managing partner job at PwC and if you don’t add value no one will remember you let alone care about you. So, act now. Make sure that they remember you as a brand builder and as a compassionate human being for creating some value in their lives – professional and personal.

Creating opportunities for others; be relevant to their future, and when you are building a company, generating values for shareholders – these are important to me. I always believe in making lots of profits. I am so sorry, I keep on making profits. My bosses keep on telling me Mamun keeps on taking large budgets. And somehow by the grace of Almighty and lot of contribution and love and care from my colleagues, I could make this so far.

Future Startup

What does it take to grow an organization?

Mamun Rashid

A great team that is ready to sacrifice, that trusts you, and willing to rally behind you and commit and work hard regardless of the difficulties and challenges.

Now, assembling such a team is easier said than done. It also depends on you, what type of leader you are and how you deal with and treat your people.

Life is all about creating value for others. The greatest satisfaction of life comes from our willingness to contribute to the world. It is what makes life meaningful and inspires us to move forward.

Future Startup

What advice do you give to people who are just starting out?

Mamun Rashid

Have a plan when you are starting something. Never start something or try to achieve something for the sake of fame or money or social approval. When pursuing an ambition, begin with a good intention.

Many of our ambitions in life are not ours for real. We seldom make decisions independently. Our society, peers, family, and environment make our decisions for us. When we fail to recognize what we want for real and what we want because of cultural conditioning, we end up discontent with life.

Every story is a unique story. It is easy to interpret the life of Steve Jobs or Bill Gates looking backward and find a correlation between dropping out and success. But in reality, it is not that simple. Life is complex and there is more to every simple narrative. Look beyond the surface. Explore deeply and passionately. Struggle and embrace challenges and believe that it will lead you to somewhere.

A great team that is ready to sacrifice, that trusts you, and willing to rally behind you and commit and work hard regardless of the difficulties and challenges.

Future Startup

How do you deal with stress and challenges that come with your profession?

Mamun Rashid

Stress is an integral part of our lives, no matter how hard we try to get rid of it. I have gone through difficult times in my career and life. There was a time when I was a solitary person because I could not have friends and peers with whom I could share. I’m a competitive person in nature and that at times has affected my relationships with my peers.

Having said that, I have been lucky to have some really great friends in my life and they have been tremendous support throughout my journey. Having friends and good colleagues with whom you can share your trials and tribulations help.

You are lucky beyond measure if you have someone who can guide you in the time of trying and advice you how to protect your marriage, how to bear a child, how to manage a conflicting situation, how to manage arrogant colleagues, an arrogant boss, bullying boss. I was not that lucky and did not have that many corporate friends but as I said, I have been lucky to have friends who have supported me selflessly.

They might not help me in my professional life but anytime I reached out to them, they offered their shoulder and allowed me to rest which helped me to carry through when the time was tough. This is one thing.

Depending on Almighty Allah and relying on him always helps. It is an extremely liberating experience and it changes how you look at challenges and obstacles of life.

Many of our ambitions in life are not ours for real. We seldom make decisions independently. Our society, peers, family, and environment make our decisions for us. When we fail to recognize what we want for real and what we want because of cultural conditioning, we end up discontent with life.

(Interview by Ruhul Kader, Transcription by Khaleda Husna Fariha, Cover image: PwC Bangladesh)

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