Off hours: Standard Chartered UAE chief exec is a stickler for routine

Mohsin Nathani is the chief executive of Standard Chartered UAE. The Pakistani, 49, took on the role in February, having been the head of the bank’s operations in Pakistan before that since 2010. Mr Nathani, who is married and has three children, two boys and a girl aged between 13 and 24, began his international banking career 22 years ago at ABN Amro.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend? 

The weekend is something I look forward to because these days the whole working week is so intense. What appeals to me the most, and what I tell my wife, is that if we don’t have anything on the calendar over the weekend, it psychologically relaxes me – there’s no pressure of having to go here, do this. I try typically to keep an open calendar then we kind of catch up on rest, go out for a movie, have nice meals whenever we fancy. The flexibility of the schedule is good for me psychologically.  

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby? 

I enjoy sport, watching sport and reading about sport, cricket especially. If there’s a match happening in the UAE, I try to go and see it. I went to see the last Pakistan-New Zealand match. Sport is big for me. I used to play squash but as I am getting older I have to be more careful. It’s a tough game on your knees, on your back, on the heart – you need to be in super shape. I like to follow the financial news and I am also interested in corporate social responsibility, the whole social aspect of supporting the underprivileged from a vocational, health point of view. Once a month on a weekend I go to Karachi to dedicate to that. On the education side, we fund institutions, which are providing learning opportunities to the underprivileged. One is directly on the schooling front and then on the vocational side there’s a growing demand for people who can be taught a skill in 12 to 18 months, people who are less educated but can be given some skill.

What can’t you live without? 

It’s not a good answer, but perhaps work. I enjoy work very much, but I am not someone who puts in 16 hours a day. I have a regimented routine and try to be as productive as possible with my time management.

What do you consider the secret of your success? 

It starts with passion. I think you have to like what you do, which I do. So I keep telling everyone that I work because I enjoy it, the day I stop enjoying it, I will stop working and do something else. But within the workspace, what I’ve figured out is that people are the most important piece. You extract and get more value and more productivity out of them by helping them and making it easier for them to work. I think my organisational and personal skills have helped me. 

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business? 

I’m a firm believer that if you don’t enjoy this profession, don’t do it. This is perhaps the best industry to work for, simply because it gives you so much opportunity. There is massive dearth and demand for talent today. Banks are always looking for good people. If anybody performs, the opportunity to grow is phenomenal. 

How do you achieve a work-life balance?  

By being very clear about efficiency and timing. I aim to start relatively early. I start between 8 and 8.30am and I must finish by 6.30pm. I struggle to stay in the office beyond 6.30pm and during the course of the day, I will not waste time. 

How do you relax after the working day?

I go for a walk or do some exercises and then a bit of TV. I love the outdoors. I am a passionate cigar smoker, so I will sit outside and enjoy my cigar, a cup of tea, coffee. I like the down time a lot. Forty-five minutes to an hour in the evenings has to be my personal downtime when I am on my own. I’ll just have my phone, play around with it and have my cigar. 

If you weren’t running this business what else would you be doing? 

I would be focused on a social organisation. Social responsibility is my passion, so I would give a significant amount of my time to that profession on a non-profit basis.

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Mahmoud Kassem

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