This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Yogan Rasanayakam, General Manager Westpac Banking Corporation, past co-chairman of Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT) Asia Pacific, Globally Recognized Banking Senior Executive.
Yogan Rasanayakam is a senior executive with broad experience in the Asia Pacific Region, predominantly focused in the field of Finance and has extensive Mergers & Acquisitions and Asian banking experience acquired over two decades of Financial Sector reforms in the region.
He is currently the General Manager Asia for Westpac Banking Corporation and leads the Asian consumer and institutional businesses in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He was appointed to the role in August 2004 and is based in Singapore.
Yogan is accountable for strategic direction and management of Asian business in Australia, New Zealand and Asia. This diverse business offers a full suite of products to both wholesale and retail clients via the Westpac. In this role, he has regional responsibility for Financial Markets, Capital Markets, Financing, Structured Finance, Corporate, Institutional and SME Relationship Banking, Risk Management, Asian Wealth, Retail and Private Banking.
Prior to assuming the current role, Yogan was the Head of Mergers & Acquisitions for Westpac Banking Corporation. Yogan was also a past co-chairman of Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT) Asia Pacific.
Yogan holds a Bachelor of Financial Administration from the University of New England, Australia.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Yogan, you were an invited Fortune 1000 distinguished delegate to the Beijing 4th International CEO Roundtable of Chinese and Foreign Multinational Corporations - all due to your globally recognized leadership. It was a pleasure talking with you at the summit. What do you feel were the goals of the summit?
"....In essence it was showing that what’s important to the world was important to China and leading the way for the future. China sees itself very much now as part of the global leadership and they do want to exert that leadership far more than they have been doing in the past...."
Why did you participate at the summit?
"....The great thing about this summit was that there were a large number of senior executives from China who were there, particularly on the break sessions and the evening coffees and dinners, where you were able to mingle and chat with people. Normally when I go, I meet people from similar sort of industries - this was an opportunity to meet people from various other industries. I found this an incredible source of information and insights...."
You’ve touched on this a little before but perhaps you can expand more and tell us more about your work and your memorable experiences at the Beijing conference.
"....My memorable experience was meeting new people and listening to their stories and insights....Each country is different so while the ethos and the theme of the corporate and social responsibility may be similar, the application is different so it was fascinating to listen to them...."
Can you summarize what you considered to be your top themes or areas that you wish to share from the summit?
"....The Summit itself was very candid and China was making a point about continuing to make a contribution, particularly in environmentally friendly low carbon technology....Interesting discussions emphasizing the open economy....Ensuring that there was more capital management, ensuring a stronger governance in terms of the banking sector....One final area which was interesting was where a lot of foreigners are going in and working for Chinese companies...."
Can you comment on the Chinese approach to banking versus the Western kind of view and way of doing things during the global financial crisis?
"....In the case of China they have gone basically from a closed economy with strong governance (in terms of how to do business) into a more open economy. In the process of doing that they’ve been tapping into the world’s best practices....There’s a slightly different perspective of what’s happening in China versus the West. Emerging markets go through different challenges versus developed markets...."
Where do you see China in five to ten years? What kind of impact will that have with the kind of leadership positions that they are taking worldwide?
".....People are saying in this part of the world that the next hundred years is Asia, the last one hundred years was in Europe and the US....All the fundamentals are there for China to become a true leader in every sense of the word. But I think it will be a long while before the US is surpassed in many of the other aspects..."
Yogan outlines his prior roles and what he learned in those roles.
"....In terms of work my learning has come from travelling around principally with work and dealing with different peoples - each country brings its own values and benefits....I’ve had a very fortunate life in being able to travel and being able to participate in various elements within Westpac in different areas, from being a CFO to M & A to Structured Finance and now in this current role...."
Prior to your current role you were Head of Mergers & Acquisitions for Westpac Banking Corporation. You were also past co-chairman of the Banker’s Association for Finance and Trade Asia Pacific. On the M & A side can you share some best practices?
"....We would go through a fairly thorough process in terms of analysis. I think those disciplines of looking at the way we do business was something I’ve been able to bring to this current job and ensuring that we are very systematic. We didn’t necessarily follow for the sake of following, we had our own strategic agenda and we matched that to our outcome...."
Yogan, can you outline your current roles and your goals?
"....We’ve been in the market a very long time so Australia and New Zealand is our core market. We are essentially supporting our clients in those markets and using the expertise that we’ve picked up in those markets to support our clients here in Asia. To a large extent it’s a customer driven strategy that we are here for...."
What are major challenges that your industry is facing and what are the solutions to the challenges?
"....The West as a whole, particularly in developed countries, is going through lower economic growth, so we have to look for markets with high economic growth; Asia is one of them....Companies constantly have to look at productivity....Tougher regulatory controls that are being introduced....The type of competition is changing - the competition we are seeing is different with different types of drivers...."
What are the major innovations and opportunities in your industry and what actions can be taken to take advantage of these opportunities?
"....Social networks are starting to play a significant role in how we operate....The part that excites me the most is that there are about two and half billion people who are still unbanked in this world, particularly in the emerging market - those are the people who we have a great ability to innovate and work with through technology...."
Technology underlies certain essential aspects of innovation and opportunities, such as democratizing banking worldwide so that everybody has access to it. Are there rigid standards in terms of the professionals who work in the IT side of the industry? Does the banking industry require some sort of accreditation or certification?
"....Generally speaking big banks and big large corporations, whether they be financial or other organizations, tend to work with large reputable companies....Certainly in the financial sector the mechanisms which we go through in technology are very rigid in terms of how we approach implementation of new system processes....There are internal governances and audit processes to make sure that the customer information is protected...."
What are the top global forces shaping your industry?
"....The next 100 years is going to be about the emerging markets....Productivity is going to be essential....Better technology and better ability to handle those new models....Better processes....I think corporate social responsibility is going to be quite essential particularly with scarce resources such as clean air, water and fuels....The aging population...."
What pivotal lessons do you wish to share from your considerable history of national and international success?
"....Maintain one’s values....Understand the local customs and needs....Learn from your mistakes, be persistent and be patient....When you go into a new market you have to come in with a long-term sustainable plan....People are your greatest asset....When you keep it simple the lessons are much easier...."
Yogan profiles Westpac and its background.
"....We have a rich history in Australia and New Zealand and we have an increasingly global history on the corporate and social responsibility aspect of it...."
What are Westpac Regional trends?
"....There are significant amounts of trade occurring between Australia and New Zealand and Asia....The technologies that Australia has in terms of its ability to grow even within drought-driven areas - we’ve seen a lot of interest coming out of that....There is a tremendous amount of liquidity in the Asian market so we are trying to tap into that...."
You’ve touched on this a little already but can you summarize what are Westpac’s competitive advantage(s); successes to date; Westpac's strategy and focus?
"....Our strategy is to grow our business in Asia organically and we have a saying ‘Growing offshore to grow onshore.’...."
You choose the areas - provide your predictions of future trends and their implications/opportunities?
"....As the world becomes more challenged in terms of the more developed markets, people are moving towards developing markets and the ability to be able to tap into that....In developed markets, in order to be successful, productivity is going to be important....The social networks are going to have a profound impact moving forward...."
Which are your top recommended resources and why?
"....Meeting people and then meeting up with people in other organizations....I tend to surf the Net quite a bit....I read a lot (I have an eclectic taste)....Talking to people...."
Yogan shares some inspiring and profound stories from his work and many experiences.
"....If everybody chips in, with a little effort we could all collectively get massive benefits from it...."
If you were doing this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
"....’What are the aspects of leadership that would make a good leader?’....’Globally what are the things that keep people awake at night?'....'What are the three things that would make someone excited in terms of the future of the world?’...."