Exclusive interview with Mr. Jamal Jaffar, An inspiration to the banking career aspirants

Q8india.com, the well-known news portal in Kuwait recently had the pleasure of having a chat with Mr. Jamal Jaffar, Deputy General Manager – Treasury Services, Boubyan Bank.

With about four decades of experience, Mr. Jamal Jaffar is a very well-known personality in the banking sector in Kuwait. Mr. Jaffar has many achievements under his belt. To name a few, he obtained FIRST RANK in India in aggregate marks as well as in the subject of Finance of Foreign trade and Foreign exchange, in the professional Banking examination (CAIIB) of the Indian Institute of bankers, and was awarded Sir Norman Murray Prize . He is the only Indian to be approved by Central Bank of Kuwait to function as a  Treasurer of a Kuwaiti Bank.

Hailing from Chennai, Mr. Jaffar holds a Master’s degree in Physics and a diploma in Bank Management and belongs to a very well  known and reputed JAMAL family , who pioneered export of Leather from India in early 20th century ( around the year 1915).

Q: Tell us something about yourself and your family.

Mr. Jamal: Well, I belong to  Chennai in India, and our forefathers migrated from Ramanathapuram  about 150 years ago to Chennnai . My great grandfather Mr. Jamal Mohamed Sahib was a very successful businessman, and became  the President of  Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) in the year 1931, and had the distinction of attending the 2nd round table conference on trade in London during the British rule. He was an ardent nationalist, and supported the freedom struggle led by the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi.  

He was a well known  philanthropist, and together with his associate Janab Khaja Mian Rowther  , founded the Jamal Mohammed College at Trichy in Tamilnadu  in 1951. Till today it is one of the revered institution in TamilNadu dedicated to the educational upliftment of  the  community. THE Goodwill of the institution can be judged by the love and Financial support extended in the form of scholarships to poor students and sponsoring various buildings in the college premises,  by the  Alumni( old students) of the college in various countries, including Kuwait.

I have a very simple family, and blessed with three children. My daughter , a computer engineer  worked for HP. Currently she is busy setting up a play school in Chennai which was her passion. My elder son after completing Masters in Engineering , established his business in Chennai. The youngest son is in university pursuing civil engineering course.  

I had my education at Delhi and went to St. Stephen’s college, a  premier institution, for my graduation and masters  in physics.

I’ve envisioned a plan for my life after retirement. I have always loved nature, and my intention is to do composite farming. God willing, I wish to set up an agricultural farm , with poultry etc. Unlike a few of  my colleagues, who opted to settle  down in Canada, Australia and other places, I’m having a firm decision to go back to my home country India !

 Q: How did banking career happened when you are a Physics student?

Mr. Jamal: I had a passion for numbers and use to think about finance . Coupled with this , with the social banking in India  after 1969, I thought banking career would offer me a scope to help the community  as well as satisfy my  urge in a  career involving finance. I worked for Indian Overseas bank in Foreign exchange dealing room , and  was selected by the bank and sent on  deputation to Hong Kong office Treasury department , where I stayed for five years. To tell the truth, in my opinion science and engineering students are very successful in Treasury functions in banks !

Q: Tell us about your journey to Kuwait

Mr. Jamal: I saw an advertisement in newspaper about an opening in Kuwait for trainer in treasury functions in Bank. One of the reason why I applied for this opening is that, I always had a longing for teaching profession. In fact I used to take classes at Reserve Bank of India and at The Indian Institute of Bankers, for candidates appearing for  banking examination. I loved teaching and when I saw an opening for training in banking sector, I immediately applied and I was selected. I joined training department of Burgan bank where I trained Kuwaiti management trainees in treasury operations. After one and half year I moved back  to  Treasury department, in the same bank, and became Assistant Treasurer of the bank.

Having served in Middle East for several years, I  had a longing to work in  Islamic Banking. When Boubyan Bank was established in November 2004, I was called by the bank to join them which I accepted wholeheartedly. In 2010 I was confirmed as a Treasurer by Central Bank of Kuwait.  I always thank Allah for every milestone I have achieved in my life.  

Q: How are we placed in terms of recession which shook the whole world?

Mr. Jamal: We had two financial crisis in Kuwait in recent times. One during 2003 which was specific to Kuwait due to perceived threat from Iraq. During this period it was tough  for banks in Kuwait, as global lenders curtailed their  lending to Kuwait. After March 2003, when the threat had cleared, there was a boom in both the real estate and the stock market.  As far as the second financial crisis is concerned, It took place as a result of greed, and originated in USA Bank’s  real estate lending portfolio, where they were giving loans on terms which were not clear for borrowers. They sold those loans using derivatives to other banks and fund managers. When interest rates went up in US Dollars,   many borrowers started defaulting,  and it had a knockon effect. This affected  many  American  and European banks , who carried this portfolio in their books. To an extent banks in Middle East were safe during that period as most of them did not have those assets in their books, but they also had to face some indirect effects. Islamic banks were less impacted as they never finance without having a tangible asset. The point to be noted is that, during that crisis it was GCC institutions  which bailed-out many of the International banks. From the lesson learned from those financial crisis ,  regulators / central banks become stricter in terms of valuation , risk weight of assets and capital adequacy parameters.

From India’s perspective, during the last three years  the RBI  has cut  interest rates, whereas the global economy has an inclination towards  increasing the interest rates. By cutting the interest rates in India, they have benefitted the borrower at the expense of the depositors. Growth has not picked up to the extent envisaged!! 

I think the economic policy of India should be looked at again, and in as much as a major portion of the  GDP comes from agriculture and related activities, a substantial investment in infrastructure facilities like  water resources , power generation and distribution, etc. has to be  made by the government, for  long term sustainable growth with controlled inflation . With a large population of the country below the poverty line, a shift towards  private enterprise ( who have short term profit motive) in such critical sector , will sound a death knell for the country.

Q: Any suggestions and guidance to NRI’s for their saving and investment plans.

Mr. Jamal: The investment and savings depends on kind of domain one is from. There are many systematic plans for investment. The focus should be to diversify investment with consistent returns. Never put all your eggs  in one basket!!  If one can afford, they should have diversified investment across real estate, bank deposit, equity fund and fixed income ( bonds etc.). Your investment should have  a  combination of regular income generating portfolio and assets that have long term potential for  appreciation. Of course it also depends on your background, investable amount and risk taking capacity.

Q8India would like to thank Mr. Jamal for giving us his valuable time and we wish him good luck in his future endeavor.

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