Shaukat Aziz has had a remarkable career, from a 30-year stint as a senior executive in Citibank’s global empire to a period in politics, first as finance minister and then as prime minister of his native Pakistan.
So it’s no wonder that his friends urged him to write his memoirs, which are published this month.
‘From Banking to the Thorny World of Politics’ is a unique take on two of the institutions that have such an impact on our daily lives. The book is full of insider’s anecdotes and a must-read for anyone interested in finance or global politics.
Much attention will focus on one incendiary chapter, ‘Bin Laden: Who knew what?’ It may have been forgotten that Aziz himself survived an Al-Qaeda suicide bombing attempt to assassinate him while in office, which drove him to engage in the fight against global terrorism.
People in finance, though, might turn to his fascinating insight into his career as a banker. Some of it appears in a chapter headed ‘Wall Street: The World’s Best School for Politics’, a passage that the many financiers in Manhattan hoping to be picked as Treasury Secretary should Hillary Clinton take the White House next year, may well be advised to read.
Aziz’s take on the merger between Citigroup and Travelers in the late 1990s, sheds light on the dysfunctional discussions that took place between their respective leaders, John Reed and Sandy Weill, right from the outset. Weill tells Aziz: “I said to John: ‘Listen, we’re both in our 60s and had great success, we should be mature enough to get along with each other.’ But it turned out we were so, so different.” Reed for his part tells Aziz he regrets the merger.
The dysfunction famously extended to the management structure put in place by Reed and Weill. Jamie Dimon, then seen as Weill’s right hand man, tells Aziz: “I told John and Sandy from the start, what we were doing is outrageous. We are going to blow up the place. We had tri-heads reporting to co-heads – it was an unmitigated disaster.” Dimon, of course, soon left to run BankOne, and is now the undisputed king of US banking as CEO of JPMorgan.