Backed by a family that places a high value on having women in positions of leadership, Hinduja S.P. Shanu is the Chair of Hinduja Bank in Switzerland, as well as a senior member of the Hinduja Group, an international conglomerate whose worldwide operations span the seven continents covering every sector imaginable – automotive, energy, media, healthcare, real estate, telecommunications and financial services.
With a net worth of $19.5 billion, the Hinduja family is listed at #55 on Forbes 2018 The World’s Billionaires and #4 on India’s Richest 2018: The Top Ten Billionaires.
As a senior member of the Hinduja Group, Hinduja S.P. Shanu is Chair of Hinduja Bank in Switzerland, Chair of the Hinduja Foundation US, and Co-Chair and Director of Hinduja Global Solutions Inc.
A graduate of finance, global leadership and luxury lifestyle at INSEAD Business School in France, the Monaco resident is also the founder of her brand and foundation, SheByShanoo7, and a leading advocate for gender equality and the evolving role of women in the economy.
Forbes Monaco: Hinduja Bank was founded in 1994 and specializes in the Asian and Middle Eastern markets. Why did you choose to invest in this part of the world?
Hinduja S.P. Shanu: Asia and the Middle East are home to many of the world’s “emerging markets”—but at the bank, we would call them “growth markets”; this part of the world is enjoying dynamic productivity and wealth creation.
That is why, in addition to London and the Swiss market from our base in Geneva, we cover the UAE from Dubai, as well as maintaining a presence in Mauritius and Chennai (India).
Having benefited from the far-sighted vision of my father, Srichand Parmanand Hinduja, our bank seeks to be a bridge between East and West, connecting markets and allowing clients to make the best of today’s globalized world.
We’re keen to combine the best of Switzerland’s banking tradition—aided by its superb regulatory environment—with access to local markets and on-the-ground expertise.
FM: As a promoter for gender equality, how do you measure the role of women and economy in Asia and the Middle East?
Shanu: Ever since my grandfather, the late Parmanand Deepchand Hinduja, established trading links between India and the West, our work has been all about crossing continents and I am very conscious that my family has fully embraced the values of multiculturalism.
In Asian and Middle Eastern markets, young people and women in particular remain massively underserved by the banking sector and we are tackling this head on.
This part of the world is where countries need to be supported—that is why I prefer being involved in these markets. As the first generation after my father, my sister Vinoo Hinduja and I are leaning into the vision of empowering women in business.
FM: In terms of development, what is the strategy of Hinduja Bank?
Shanu: We are committed to honoring my grandfather’s trusted values, especially that your
word is a bond. Integrity is crucial—particularly in banking, an industry ultimately built on trust.
As part of our development, we aim to act with a positive impact on our local environment, always bearing in mind the needs of wider society and the planet. In fact, we in the financial sector need to do more to embrace social impact investing.
We embrace the idea of being bold and advancing fearlessly. We make important decisions based on wisdom and integrity, in business and in life—this is even more important for a woman in banking, which has traditionally been a man’s world.
FM: In addition to supporting the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the
UN Global Accelerator—a program designed to foster entrepreneurial ideas to tackle today’s economic challenges—you, through the Hinduja Foundation, and alongside your father, have provided scholarships at Columbia University, Massachusetts General Hospital and Cambridge University. What initiatives are you taking to encourage women to enter the financial sector?
Shanu: We are supported by a strong family, which not only offers stability, but also encourages women leaders and strives to provide opportunities for young entrepreneurs.
The Board and shareholders have worked closely with The Boston Consulting Group to develop a plan to reposition the bank with a policy of empowerment of women and young business entrepreneurs.
In addition, Karam Hinduja—Srichand P. Hinduja’s grandson, and fourth-generation of the Hinduja family—has embarked on a business strategy through his visionary company, Timeless, which encourages young business entrepreneurs in their ventures.
FM: What are your plans in Monaco?
Shanu: I love Monaco. I love working here, I’m inspired here, and it allows me to be who I am without the commotion of other cities like London, New York, Geneva or Paris. It feels like my domain.
In fact, we have always wanted to establish a presence in Monaco and this objective still remains valid today. Supporting the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, which helps protect the environment, I am honored that our Group Chairman, S.P. Hinduja, is a founding member, as am I. My other projects here include launching SheByShanoo7, a luxury brand, in its fledgling stages, designed to help support women and girls. This was inspired by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and the Hinduja Foundation, which is deeply rooted in the values of my grandfather and supports the advancement of education and medicine throughout the world, the relief of poverty, hunger and sickness, the development of interfaith understanding, along with efforts to combat climate change.
FM: You are a respected speaker on
the world’s most pressing issues at prestigious venues—having notably addressed the leaders of more than 130 countries at the UN General Assembly, and publicly discussed achievement of the UN’s gender-equality goals with former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Davos. How would you describe the status of women in your native country of India, and is there a place for gender equality in its traditional culture?
Shanu: Unfortunately, women and girls are blatantly oppressed, disempowered individuals—not only in India, but also in many countries across the world.
We are seeing progress in advancing gender equality: India has recently struck down its discriminatory adultery law, for
instance. But those nations that have made more progress—Iceland, Sweden, and New Zealand—must do more to reach out directly to help those with still further to go.
I see the need for young women to work and thrive in this new world, and as family or parents, we try to choose to lead by example. My children—my daughter, Lavanya Hinduja and my son, Karam Hinduja—have been an inspiration for my family.
As such, I firmly believe that progress starts in the family. We need to educate parents—both mothers and fathers—on the importance of raising their daughters to appreciate work. This is crucial to fostering their independence and enabling their empowerment
My sister Vinoo, who is active in leading the healthcare division of the Hinduja Group, and I were very lucky in this regard as our father recognized this and raised us to value work, independence and entrepreneurship from a young age. Now he is passing his inspirations onto us, and I am immensely grateful for his progressive vision.
FM: As a woman in a position of influence, do you feel a responsibility to give back to other women and girls and support their own empowerment?
Shanu: Absolutely. We women need to improve our own status—instead of asking men to do it. We are improving the world by adding economic growth, not only to our own pocket but also to our family power. This internal support adds a lot to the family structure and improves the value of the family wealth.
Women are encouraging the growth of young boys’ minds by exposing them to the strength of women’s choices. This will shift the way boys see women in general, and as they grow into men they will treat women differently as a result.
I am personally planning my life on this belief, that women work.
On this humanitarian model, the hospital and medical research center have since grown and thrived—attracting some of the world’s best medical minds and offering state-of-the-art services. Today, this hospital has won various accolades and awards, such as, most recently, “Best Multi Specialty Hospital 2017” at the ABP News Healthcare Leadership Awards.
Since its humble beginnings, to date, the hospital has successfully treated more than 3 million outpatients, as well as 175 in-patients for high-end tertiary care. The hospital’s dedicated staff have performed more than a million surgical operations, more than a million radiological investigations, and over 7.5 million laboratory investigations.
FM: You are a prolific writer who has been published in leading media in Europe, the US and India on subjects ranging from technology to education, and from globalization to Brexit. Having studied in London, where some of your family still lives, what is your take on Brexit and its potential impact on the global economy?
Shanu: I believe in the stability of the British Government and that Britain will always do the best for its people. Whatever form Brexit and the negotiations take, we need to put the people first, and humanity at the heart of politics. We cannot risk doing anything to squeeze the prosperity or welfare of working people on either side of the Channel, as that will only drive more people towards populist politics. Of course, the bank will continue to monitor the situation closely, for the benefit of its clients.
then progressed into a full banking license granted in 1994. The Geneva- headquartered institution has expanded its presence to London, Dubai, Mauritius and Chennai. The bank offers its clients comprehensive wealth management, corporate finance and investment services, and maintains a 100%-owned subsidiary—Hinduja Bank Middle East, Ltd in Dubai.
FM: You often wear a tie—why?
Shanu: Just as I may go out of my way to wear a suit jacket, for example, a tie shows that I, as a woman, need to fit in with the men to mean business.
More importantly, however, it shows that I am a leader and my own woman. As an independent woman, I should have the right to wear exactly what I want.
As a woman, I am reclaiming the right to be successful in what many regard as a man’s world.
Ties represent power in a man’s world. I like playing with that power. It gives me a sense of freedom. ✱