The former Vice Chairman of Citigroup N.A. USA, Victor
J. Menezes is an IIT-Trained Engineer – Turned Banker, who joined Citigroup in Citibank’s fort Branch Bombay in 1972 as a management associate on a monthly salary of Rs. 2000 in 1972, earned the title of “the banker beyond compare” with annual pay packet of Rs. $27,397,700/- in just 27 years before he quitted. He is being considered as a possible candidate to head the investment commission of India. Mr. Menezes, a non-resident Indian, is seen as the most prominent American CEO of Indian origin. He directed Citigroup’s Mergers & Acquisition activities and has been responsible for managing relationships with important customers and government regulators. He was also responsible for Citigroup’s senior management development programs and leading the company’s recruiting efforts internationally.
Victor Menezes, who graduated from IIT Bombay
in 1970, donated $3 million to IIT Bombay Heritage Fund lately for building a world class convention centre. The ceremony was attended by faculty and staff members as well as current students and alumni of IIT.
“It is my way of giving back to society,” says Menezes.
Menezes was born in Pune, 180 kilometers from Mumbai to Mr. Manuel, a senior railway official and Mrs. Nina menezes on
May 19, 1949.
IIT Mumbai, from where he acquired a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, taught him nearly all the lessons he would need to call upon in his career. It was at his father’s insistence that Victor decided to go to IIT. It proved to be the best decision of his life. Menezes was a good student at IIT, but not outstanding. The boy who made good grades and knew his subjects well was better known for his skills as an orator. The debating society at IIT helped Menezes hone his communication skills. The soft-spoken, shy boy emerged as an unlikely champion in the fierce verbal duels that characterized the debates at Powai. “Victor won most of the time. He knew how to keep his head at the debates and attack his opponents’ arguments. Everyone wanted him on their team because he could win,” recalled one of his seniors at IIT.
After IIT, Menezes went to the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for an MBA, majoring in finance. It was the desire “to do something broader” that prompted the switch. “I wanted to have more options I did not want to join a technical firm and work there for the rest of my life,” he said.
Though, “It may seem surprising that Victor, an electrical engineering graduate, became CEO of the world’s largest bank. But this is emblematic of the quality of the all-round education provided by the IITs. It is not so much a mere apprenticeship in technical skills but truly a broad based liberal education. IIT taught us how to think, analyze and apply. These are universal skills and are as useful to an engineer in Silicon Valley as they are to a banker on Wall Street,” he says.
After MIT Menezes interviewed with many financial firms on Wall Street. He chose Citibank because it offered him a chance to come back home. He wanted to spend time with his family, something he could not do during school and college. In 1972, Menezes joined Citibank’s corporate banking division in Mumbai on a monthly salary of Rs 2,000. With his first salary he took his folks out to dinner. He worked with the bank since. Five years later, in 1977, when he took over as Citibank’s CEO for India, he was only 28.
Menezes’ biggest role model has been his father. In that sense he too has always given priority to his family after having given 100% at the office. His father who retired as chairman of indian railways taught his children that success and happiness are not defined by who you are and what you do, but by living life with a compass of principles, a bushel of ideas, a generous dose of fun and most of all in sharing and making a difference to the lives of those around you. In 1982, Menezes left India to go to New York. From then on, he moved countries, each time adding another conquest to his career.
In Hong Kong, he went as head of the bank’s largest Asian operation. In Latin America he played a key role in Grafting a $ 3 billion
write-off during the 1987 debt crisis. In Europe he integrated Citibank’s mergers and acquisitions.
Credit for some of that down-to-earth attitude can be attributed to his attractive wife, Tara. A former Miss India, and the second Indian to be crowned Miss Asia Pacific in 1973, Tara Ann Fonseca gave up the limelight once she became Mrs Victor Menezes. She gives Victor a very stable family life and provides him with a lot of strength and is a help to him keep his sense of balance. Menezes daughter, Pia says,
“I think my father is an incredibly intelligent and gifted person, but what I will always admire is his humility and keen sense of humor. Despite his high pressure job, he always knew how to leave the office behind and have a good time with the family.”
He has said: “Technologies come and go. Much of what you learnt may change five years from now. But, the fundamentals remain. It is clear from all the rubble in Silicon Valley that those people who focussed on core and fundamental technologies prospered, and those caught up in the dot.com marketing phase got burnt up.”
He always believes that education is the single biggest driver of economic growth rate. he thinks India has done very well, but the world is changing and we must to keep up with it, we have to invest a lot more in education and we should get the help from wherever we can..