Richad Soundardjee is the Middle East chief executive for Société Générale. Mr Soundardjee, 47, from France has worked for the financial institution – France’s third largest bank by assets – for 21 years, starting his current role based in Dubai in 2013. He is married with four children – three sons aged 19, 17, and six, and a three-year-old daughter.
What are your favourite things to do at the weekend?
I’m usually travelling or getting home late during the week, so I spend my weekends with the kids. My youngest son loves to go to car showrooms, so he forces me to do a tour of the few large ones in Dubai. He is a luxury car enthusiast – from the age of three, he would car-spot on the streets. He knew all the brands.
What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?
I play tennis with my older sons when they visit from Paris, and regularly with my wife. Unfortunately, my wife – who won the singles and doubles tournaments in 2014 and 2015 at our local tennis club – often beats me. I also try and catch up on the books I haven’t had time to read during the week.
What can’t you live without?
My wife and kids. I joke with my sons that my daughter is my favourite – I have a sense of protection over her that developed the moment she was born.
What do you consider the secret to your success?
Persistence. I’ve been at Société Générale for 21 years. What I have achieved, particularly in my last three positions, comes from my enthusiasm for building new businesses, or taking existing businesses to their next levels. From 2003 to 2009, for example, I was head of structured private placements in London. We created new markets in this segment and opened new avenues for the bank. My current role is about taking the bank in this region to its natural rank. We have been active here for the past two decades, and now we are entering a new phase of growth. Our five-year development plan launched in 2014 is focusing on allocating capital and developing dedicated teams on the ground, whose areas of speciality include structured finance, Islamic finance, custody, asset management and brokerage services, from our hub in Dubai and offices in Abu Dhabi and Riyadh.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
Have a clear vision of what you want your business to look like in five years’ time. Don’t worry if this is an idealistic vision, because it helps you strive above and beyond what was thought possible. Most importantly, make sure you get the best people around you and this vision, because this is a people’s business.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I try to get involved in broader community work. I have been raised in a socially conscious family and environment, where giving back is at the core of our value system. The concept of being generous with one’s time and knowledge is what community work has taught me: that education is a privilege, and that we should share what we know. Extracurricular activities and civic engagement can teach you as much, if not more, than any business school. You have the chance to lead teams, coordinate events, manage budgets. With the added complexity that you don’t have money as an incentive for people to listen to you – so it’s all about leadership.
How do you relax after a working day?
Driving home in itself is relaxing. Most evenings I Skype with my two eldest sons, who live in Paris. They are at a critical time in their studies – taking exams that will totally change the rest of their lives. We maintain a very strong bond – we speak very often, and they come to me for every important thing happening in their lives. We have the kinds of discussions my dad and I would never have had.
If you weren’t running chief executive of this company what else would you be doing?
I would be a psychologist. I am passionate about understanding human psychology, even more so as I am exposed to so many characters in the investment banking industry that together reflect a microcosm of human psychological traits, both strengths and flaws – greed, anxiety, politicking, resilience, and the capacity to handle stress.