We must do the right things
Reported by Hong Phuc
Raul Paredes, Consumer Business Manager, Citi Vietnam, reflects upon his 20-year banking career, his
personal life and shares his view on Vietnam and its people
Raul Paredes and his family are preparing for the Christmas that will be coming soon
Banking is about integrity and honesty as we are being entrusted with our customer’s assets, which are the result of their hard work, to help them achieve their goals in life
Consumer Business Manager,
Q: Christmas is in the air. What would you say about this Christmas?
- A: My colleagues and I are going to end a successful year. We have achieved our target which is doubling the customer base in Vietnam and this makes it the most successful year. In fact, it is a special landmark for Citi’s Consumer Business in Vietnam, so this would be a very happy Christmas indeed.
Given your 20-year career in the banking industry, which do you think is the most important virtue of a banker?
- First and foremost, banking is about integrity and honesty. When you think about it, we are being entrusted with our customer’s assets, which are the result of their hard work, to help them achieve their goals in life. It is imperative we think about them with the utmost seriousness, as these assets represent someone’s aspirations in life. Our customers need to know that the people that are entrusted with their savings and investments will manage them honestly and transparently. The same goes for the communities in which we do business. We need to be perceived as a force of positive change, guided by the highest ethical standards. In Citi, we have been going through a campaign over the last two years to instill ethics as our top priority as part of our core principle of “Responsible Finance.”
Consumer banking, as the name says, should also relentlessly focus on the customer, the individual customer. Banks need to continuously think about what is it that they really need and how to better make the relevant solutions available to them, in a convenient, quick and easy way. Relevance throughout our customer’s life is what we need to be aiming for, and all the new technologies afford us incredible opportunities to do so.
Aside from the principle you have just talked about, what is your philosophy on business and life?
- Once in a course I had the pleasure of listening to the presentation of one of the most renowned experts in global trends. In that presentation, she mentioned a phrase that I think best defines what I would like to achieve. She stated that, in the end, we all are looking to be forces of positive change, to be able to contribute to the betterment of all the circles and groups we belong to and participate in. Whether it is personal or business, we should look to make, whatever we touch, better for the next generations. Leave a bit more than we have taken, whether by creating something new that was not there before, or by enhancing something to make it more useful, valuable to the communities we belong to.
So, we must not allow ourselves to be lazy or think that if we don’t do it, somebody would. At the same time, we must afford the feeling that we are always ready for a mission or a duty at ease. I believe that all of us have to work hard not only to lead a comfortable life for ourselves but also to take other things we are interested in to the next level. I had the same target when arriving in Vietnam.
As a child, did you dream of becoming a banker? Do you have now a dream you haven’t realized yet?
- My childhood dream was to become an astronaut. I was born in the year when a man was sent to the moon, which made children my age cherish a dream of becoming such a hero. If not an astronaut discovering the moon or the universe, it would otherwise be a savior such as a police officer or a firefighter. These days, children no longer think that way; they want to be celebrities. Each generation has its own dream. In fact, in my case, it might be because of family’s tradition or career. Mine is a banking family. My father and grandfather worked in the banking industry. I started a job in a factory at sixteen. After graduation, I thought I would work for Citibank for a few years. But, as you see, I’ve been with my banking job ever since.
You and your family have lived in several countries. Is there any difference from Vietnam?
- To tell the truth, few could be compared to Vietnam, particularly HCMC. It’s simply because the pace of change here has been very fast, which surprised me most during my time here.
I’ve lived in several places—Mexico, Miami, New York and Japan. I consider this city a place for peace of mind. The city is so receptive and offers plenty of comforts—excellent schools for my kids and many places for entertainment.
Regarding myself, my job here, like elsewhere, requires me to work hard, but by far and large, this is my second home country after Mexico.
Also, I desperately want to be behind the steering wheel in this city. I can’t drive a car here [because the traffic is so bad].
What are your three words about the Vietnamese?
- First, I must say that I have not yet comprehended everything here. So to my best knowledge, my three words about the Vietnamese would be: PRIDE, COLORFUL and FUTURE.
PRIDE — The Vietnamese are proud of their country, identity and culture, and it shows in everything they do.
COLORFUL — This is the country that you do not get to know only with your mind but also with all your senses. You see, feel and taste to find out their true colors or their own personalities.
FUTURE — Vietnam has a young population and 40% of it is under 30 years of age. Your population is young and will still be young in several years to come, and so it is dynamic and active.
Do you have any point of improvement for us?
- I see that many Vietnamese may have adopted an “easy-going” attitude, which sometimes leads to an unprofessional way of doing things and mediocre performance. In fact, Vietnamese can be very professional in several aspects. I wish such professionalism could be spread to other fields.
Do you have a hobby? Which are your most favorite books?
- I like all books, as they all have something to say; but probably my favorites are historic novels. I’ve always been interested in history, and these novels provide not only the events but also the context (if well written) of history’s most important periods. I also think these provide readers all over the world better understanding of the idiosyncrasies of people from different parts of the world and promote tolerance. Being a Latin American, I also enjoy very much some more Latin American literature like the novels from Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others. Their style, known as “magical realism,” seeks to use magical or unreal elements with a very thick descriptive style to provide a special reading experience to otherwise trivial plots. It is a very unique style that also describes the lifestyles of tropical Latin America and the way of thinking of people from that part of the world.
I also like watching movies, enjoying cigars, whisky and grilling ribs and playing dominos. I like playing dominos not because of the game itself but it’s the time I spend with my family. As domino game is easy to play, everybody could play it, creating a space where my kids can play together with our relatives—uncles, aunts and cousins. I think it could create a family ambience for everyone —the way the Vietnamese often do.