ABA Banking Journal - July 2013 - (Page 44)

first person SUKU RADIA Journey of a lifetime Banker’s journey takes him from Africa to the top post at an Iowa bank “The ride has been fantastic,” says Suku Radia, whose journey has led him to the position of president and CEO of Bankers Trust in Des Moines, Iowa. But for Radia, this top post is just one stop on a path that started on the other side of the world, in Uganda. Radia’s ancestors came from India in 1889 to build the railroad in British East Africa. When it was completed, they stayed, opened a business, and amassed a fortune. Radia was the fourth generation of his family to live in the capital city of Kampala. Uganda became independent in 1962, but the British influence still weighed heavily, and wealthier children went to college in the United Kingdom. Radia, however, had other plans. “I really wanted to come to the States,” he says. Getting accepted to a U.S. college—Berke- Community ties define bank CEO Suku Radia, who has worked with United Way for 35 years. Here he presents a check at an Iowa State football game. ley—was the easy part; convincing his parents to let him go there was a lot harder. They traveled to the United States to view the school, and after seeing the Berkeley scene of the 1960s, refused to let Radia go. It wasn’t until an older friend who served in the U.S. Agency for International Development talked with Radia’s parents that they warmed to the idea. “My friend told them, ‘How about if you let your son go to a place in the U.S., which is in the middle of nowhere, the weather is really lousy, and he can’t get into trouble there even if he wants to, and the people are the salt of the Earth,’” says Radia. His friend was describing Ames, Iowa, and Radia’s parents finally agreed to let him enroll at Iowa State University. A year later, however, chaos erupted in Uganda as president Idi Amin came to power. Amin seized the businesses and assets of all the Indians living in Uganda and expelled them from the country. Radia’s parents and relatives lost everything but their lives and fled to the United Kingdom, where they received political asylum. Stranded in the United States, Radia continued to work through his studies to finish college early and at the top of his class, with a degree in economics. When he graduated, he only had $4.87. “My father had always taught me, ‘Make sure you get a really good education because that is something nobody can take away from you,’” he says. The education paid off as he secured a position at KPMG, working in merg- ers and acquisitions. From there, Radia worked his way up to managing partner at KPMG. Offered a transfer to the Silicon Valley, Radia declined. He had fallen in love with Iowa and put down roots. Within a day of his decision to stay, he was offered the CFO position at Meredith, an Iowa-based media company. Eight years into the Meredith position, an old client from KPMG, Bankers 44 | ABA BANKING JOURNAL | JULY 2013 Trust—the largest privately owned bank in Iowa—came to Radia about an opening for CEO. He helped the bank find one in the ’90s while at KPMG, and offered to help, but it wanted him. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’ve never worked in a bank.’” Radia eventually accepted the position, and his work ethic, business plan, and strong community ties have brought the bank from $1.8 billion to $3.4 billion in assets. “I won’t deny the fact that I work some crazy hours,” he says. “But my philosophy has always been very simple: You hire really good people, you pay them well, and then you stay out of their way.” Radia hopes his journey will one day take him and his family back to Uganda and see that country for the first time since he left it for the United States. “Hemingway wrote, ‘You may leave Africa, but Africa will never leave you,’” he says. “Deep down, that’s about how I feel.” ––Ashley Bray, contributing editor

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of ABA Banking Journal - July 2013

ABA Banking Journal - July 2013
Contents
Chairman’s View
Editor’s Column
The Economy
Bank Notes
Picture This
Community Banking
Pass the Aspirin
Tech Topics
Cover Story: Pay Choices
State Association Roundtable
Compliance Inbox
ABA At Your Service
First Person

ABA Banking Journal - July 2013

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