Sanjay Rughani, Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank Uganda Limited

Sanjay Rughani, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Uganda, embodies a unique blend of cultural values and professional excellence. As a Tanzanian of Indian Origin, he credits his upbringing with instilling a deep respect for others, a close relationship with God, and an appreciation for the importance of family and friendships. “Growing up in Africa is not a lifestyle that comes with privilege like in many parts of the world, but the privilege we have is the privilege of togetherness; we embrace opportunities and challenges together, and that’s differently exciting,” shares Sanjay.

Sanjay considers himself blessed to have a nurturing family, with a dynamic wife who is a significant leader and two brilliant children who inspire him to be a better person every day. On a professional level, Sanjay has had a distinguished career spanning over 23 years with the world-renowned Standard Chartered Bank, where he has held 18 different roles across 5 countries before taking up his current post in Uganda. “Uganda is my 6th country. This dynamic background has shaped me to be the resilient and open-minded leader I am today,” says Sanjay.

A True Leader in the Time of Turbulence

Sanjay acknowledges that the world, including Uganda and businesses, are currently navigating through turbulent times. From inflationary pressures and volatile exchange rates to constrained supply chains and subdued private sector investments, businesses are facing an array of challenges. In addition, the Covid pandemic has become a new normal. Sanjay opines, “The Russian-Ukrainian war conflict has further exacerbated the economic situation, with China/US tensions also simmering. Energy prices have remained elevated, and we are not immune to all that. We are going through a major storm that continues to impact global growth.”

Despite these challenges, Sanjay believes there are lessons to be learned. He says, “The general business sentiments are that the world has become much faster, more complex, and the business environment globally is challenging; decision-making has therefore become extremely dynamic.” As a result, collaboration among countries, people, and businesses is essential. This includes leveraging diverse capabilities and adopting new and innovative technology, such as digital workplaces, automation and business process reengineering, blockchain, and virtual and augmented reality.

Sanjay emphasises the importance of driving sustained impact as leaders by keeping teams focused on the ultimate purpose and relevance of the organisation, enhancing visibility to build confidence, thinking medium to long term, optimising all organisational resources, embracing vulnerability, and listening more. “As the saying goes, tough times never last, tough people do – in testing times, leaders need to confront the reality, keep and drive faith in the future and stay resilient,” pinpoints Sanjay.

Stabilising Uganda’s Financial Market 

Over the past few years, Standard Chartered Bank Uganda has faced several challenges, including the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflationary pressures, supply chain disruptions, and changing regulatory landscape, among others. However, amidst these challenges, the Bank has focused on its strategy, providing its clients innovative and differentiated value propositions. “One key challenge we have faced is the rise of financial fraud and cybercrime, a global phenomenon. To address this, we have taken advantage of the Credit Reference Bureau to verify the creditworthiness of borrowers and reduce fraudulent transactions,” shares Sanjay.

As the Bank continues to optimise the opportunities presented by Uganda’s unique position, it has remained committed to the basics of good banking, such as being client-centric, paying attention to margins, rigorously analysing credit, and offering differentiated and competitive services. The Bank has also invested in upskilling its workforce to remain relevant in the rapidly changing business environment.

“As time progresses, we also acknowledge that our customers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and more knowledgeable, and their expectations are increasing. We continue to adjust and evolve to offer solutions and products instantly on mobile devices to enable customers to carry out all their financial needs on mobile devices comfortably and conveniently,” explains Sanjay. To meet its customers’ needs, Standard Chartered Bank Uganda has adjusted its business model to offer solutions and products instantly on mobile devices, collaborating with various stakeholders and leveraging FinTechs to blur the lines between banking and fintech companies. Additionally, the Bank has been relying on data analytics to provide customised and personalized products to clients.

As the Bank looks to the future, it continues to invest in technology, with digital servicing overtaking branch servicing. “Such investments inevitably drive improvements in our digital systems, making us future-ready. We are also investing in up-skilling our workforce as manual and repetitive tasks are increasingly digitised as we leverage new ways of working and hire more digitally savvy employees,” states Sanjay. By staying true to its values, Standard Chartered Bank Uganda is poised to continue growing collaboratively with its clients, delivering innovative, differentiated, and enriched value propositions in the face of ongoing challenges.

“It has been an exciting and demanding few months since I came into the role. As a bank, we have entered 2023 backed up by a solid capital base and strong liquidity position, having achieved significant progress in 2022 against a challenging external environment,” says Sanjay. Looking forward, Sanjay is confident that Standard Chartered Bank Uganda’s solid performance in 2022 demonstrates its agility, resilience, empathy, and dedication to meeting clients’ dynamic needs. “At Standard Chartered, we have over the past 111 years demonstrated our commitment to transform the banking sector by leveraging both our local and international expertise to come up with timely, value-adding and innovative solutions which make banking services secure, accessible, inclusive and convenient for individual clients from all walks of life,” adds Sanjay.

Standard Chartered Bank has always been at the forefront of innovation. The Bank’s commitment to innovation has earned the Bank various industry firsts, milestones, rewards, and recognition over the 111 years of its existence. In 2015, Standard Chartered Bank invested USD 1.5 billion in digitisation globally, demonstrating its commitment to a culture of innovation. “We understand that the future is bright and promising for Banks that are digitising as it makes banking easier, faster, cost-effective and safer for everyone,” opines Sanjay.

Clients now expect ease of technological use, security, 24/7 access, and a seamless mobile and online banking experience. Standard Chartered Bank has embraced these expectations and offers its clients consistent mobile and online banking experiences. This includes replicating usernames and passwords, beneficiaries, standing instructions, and bill payees across both channels, simplifying banking for clients. “As Standard Chartered, we pride ourselves on being ‘Digital with a Human touch.’ We continue to cautiously invest resources in client support systems to ensure that the customer journey is satisfactory,” says Sanjay. The Bank is committed to offering user-friendly and round-the-clock services to remain relevant and profitable and to achieve growth.

From Chartered Accountant to CEO

Sanjay is a well-educated and accomplished individual with an impressive list of qualifications. He holds a Chartered Accountant certification through NBAA Tanzania and is a Fellow Member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). In addition, Sanjay has an MBA in Finance, a post-graduation in HRD, and a Bachelor of Commerce. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Information Management Africa (Nigeria) and an accredited Executive Coach through the Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC).

Sanjay’s educational background and professional qualifications have enabled him to represent the Bank in various leadership forums, showcasing his expertise and leadership skills. “Despite studying a myriad of things, the one thing that shapes me the most is being a Chartered Accountant,” says Sanjay. As a Chartered Accountant, he has learned the language of business and embraced a code of practice that prioritises ethics, trust, and transparency in communication with stakeholders. These values have significantly shaped Sanjay’s leadership style and made him the successful CEO he is today.

Sanjay has enjoyed a successful career marked by significant business transformation and leadership recognition. Throughout his career, he has been credited with enhancing business performance, building human capital, driving responsible business practices and sustainability, championing digital integration and innovation, and contributing to national and global prosperity.

“My journey with Standard Chartered Bank began in 1999 when I joined the Tanzania branch as Manager for Business Finance and Support. I was promoted to Regional Finance Manager Africa two years later and relocated to the UK,” shares Sanjay. He has also held several senior roles in different markets across the Bank, including Finance Director for Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania, Executive Director, Finance in Ghana, and Area CFO for Ghana, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Before becoming CEO of Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania, Sanjay was the Head of FSSC (interim) for India and Head of Finance Operations & Change Management for Africa. In addition to his CEO role in Tanzania, he served as the Chairman of CEO Roundtable Tanzania, Deputy Chairman of the Tanzania Bankers Association (TBA), Executive member of Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC), Director of the Association of Tanzanian Employers (ATE), and was a Member of YPO.

Sanjay’s past governance representations include Non-Executive Director for Standard Chartered Bank Uganda, President of Lincoln Community School (International School in Ghana), Chairman of Ghana Business Coalition against HIV & AIDS (GBCA), Director of Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), and Founder member of FSSC forum in Kenya. Currently, Sanjay is the Chairman of the Professional Accountants in Business Advisory Group (PAIB AG) of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC).

A Typical Day

Sanjay’s day typically starts with catching up on the news headlines before diving into managing the stakeholders of Standard Chartered Bank, including the Board, regulators, staff, and clients, into ensuring optimal business performance. The Bank’s brand promise of “Here for good” is central to his work, which focuses on building and maintaining longstanding relationships with customers, promoting sustainability and ethical conduct, and preserving the Bank’s geography, footprint, and heritage.

Sanjay shares, “Service is very fundamental to my life. So, you will see me serving my clients and staff as my relationships are very key. Lastly, I create synergies between my work and community by being outgoing and outspoken. I contribute ideas and solutions in every space I occupy,” Sanjay is no stranger to pressure, having worked in high-pressure environments for many years, and he is a resilient individual who has been tested time and again.

Hacks and Advice to Be a Successful Leader

Sanjay’s ten entrepreneurial business hacks are: first, belief in yourself, your business, and the environment around you. Second, think differently and prioritise your clients. Third, focus on doing the hard work first. Fourth, have a purpose-driven mindset and prioritise serving others. Fifth, cultivate a growth mindset and embrace lifelong learning. Sixth, create a mission that is worth dedicating your life to. Seventh, don’t fear failure – see it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Eighth, stay informed and continually seek knowledge to empower yourself. Ninth, be proactive in creating opportunities for yourself and create your own luck. Tenth, be bold and take advantage of any privilege or advantage you have to maximise your potential for success. These tips can help you achieve your goals and thrive in the entrepreneurial world.

According to Sanjay, inclusive leadership will be crucial for business executives to succeed in the future. He explains, “The need for inclusion as a new leadership capability is going to be about keeping it simple, human, and ensuring employees understand what inclusion is and how those behaviours show up at work. Business executives should always keep on top of their minds the fact that if their employees feel like they truly belong and are supported, they will thrive.”

Sanjay further states that businesses and society increasingly demand more ethical practices, integrity, sustainability, and good governance as part of growth. Leaders must focus on responsible leadership, good conduct, governance, accountability, fairness, transparency, the right values, human rights, and embracing diversity and inclusion. “Attention to such matters will give business executives a more preferential license to grow in the future,” Sanjay opines.

The Ongoing Projects

As Chief Enabling Officer (CEO), Sanjay is leading and enabling his team to achieve their financial and business targets while focusing on building a best-in-class customer experience and strengthening their position as the employer of choice. He is also actively promoting economic inclusion and tackling inequality in Uganda through Futuremakers by Standard Chartered programmes, which focus on education, employability, and entrepreneurship.

Sanjay shares, “Under the Education pillar, we aim to empower 500,000 adolescent girls with life skills. The Employability pillar aims to deliver work readiness and vocational training schemes for 100,000 youth aged between 16 to 30, prioritising women and people with visual impairments. The Entrepreneurship pillar aims to provide training, capacity building, and financing to 50,000 Micro & Small businesses.” Sanjay’s focus is also on delivering STANDS, which include Lifting Participation, Accelerating Zero, and Resetting Globalization. “The STANDS aim to improve the lives of women and small businesses, address climate change by reducing carbon emissions, and support Ugandan companies to improve their environmental, social and governance standards,” adds Sanjay.

Sanjay’s career is a testament to the power of hard work, dedication, and a relentless pursuit of excellence. As a leader and change agent, he has been able to drive positive change in his organisation and the wider community. Sanjay’s commitment to promoting economic inclusion, addressing inequality, and creating a sustainable future inspires us all. Through his work, he has shown that it is possible to lead with purpose and make a real difference in the world.

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