Hinduja Waris, 31, wants to remake Swiss bank for “T-shirt, flip-flop” customers


Karam Hinduja photographed in Geneva, Switzerland

Karam Hinduja has non-Swiss ambitions for the Swiss private bank, which he took over last year.

The 31-year-old grandson of Srichand Hinduja, custodian of the $18 billion British-Indian Hinduja conglomerate, says he wants to stay true to his grandfather’s values, while looking to remake the bank to attract more modern, lesser customers. trying. In an interview at the bank’s Geneva headquarters, Karam said he asked his employees to be like the bank’s customers, who might have made their fortunes as tech entrepreneurs in finance.

“If your customer is in a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops, feel free to do the same, meeting them on their level,” said the executive.

Karam has taken over the bank at a difficult juncture for the Hindujas, with the family of his ailing 85-year-old grandfather and Srichand’s three younger brothers in deep strife. It doesn’t help that the bank sits at the center of the conflict. In a legal battle, Srichand – represented by his daughter Vinoo – is claiming sole proprietorship of the bank. The SP brothers say that the bank is part of the Hinduja group.

Karam took office in early 2020, a year in which client assets fell more than 30% to 1.69 billion Swiss francs ($1.82 billion) from just two years earlier. The decline was due to a drop in asset values, not a client withdrawal. The total assets under management stood at 2.43 billion Swiss francs by the end of October.

Karam renamed Bank SP Hinduja Banke Privy, although it is still called Hinduja Bank Switzerland on the Hinduja Group website. The executive occasionally talks about a family dispute with people who know his grandfather, but says it’s more “noisy” than anything else and says he’s looking forward to charting the bank’s future. is focused.

“I’m aware of the dynamics that happen at the family level, but I’m trying to build a great financial institution here,” he said in a respected East Coast accent in New York for more than a decade as an undergraduate at Columbia. University and then into venture capital.

While in America, he came close to choosing another career path, going pro to spend a year at Nick Bollettieri’s elite tennis academy in Florida. He was derailed by a herniated disc and the realization that he would not make the cut. He has now returned to Europe to participate in the family business.

At the bank, he couldn’t be more different from his predecessor, Gilbert Pfeiffly, a former Swiss Army colonel who had spent three decades in UBS Group AG. Pfaeffli was hired in 2016 in the wake of a pair of poor investments in commodity trading that cost the bank a reported 25 million Swiss francs.

“There was a lack of control, a lack of order,” Karam said. Pfaeffli “was the ideal person, with his background, to bring that same military style to the institution.”

The bank was stripped of its Cayman Islands banking license in May 2020 for failing to meet anti-money laundering compliance regulations. Karam said that the unit was already being shut down at that time and has been closed since then. According to its annual report, the bank also faces two claims totaling 6 million Swiss francs from unidentified former customers “alleging breach of the bank’s duties”.

Karam has brought in four people from Timeless Media, a digital media company founded in New York, to Geneva, and the same number of Srichand’s advisers from London to shake things up.

“I don’t come from the traditional world of finance,” said Karam, wearing a black suit and matching black open neck shirt. “I’ve done dealmaking, I’ve invested but I haven’t come from a banking grassroots level.”

The bank launched the Climate Action Portfolio, a fund focused on alternative energy investments, to attract a different set of investors. Hinduja said it plans to foray more into India, where young entrepreneurs from Indian families who had left the country are now returning.

“The industry is growing in India. The markets are growing. There are a lot of opportunities,” he said.

(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)