Bernard Sinniah spent almost 40 years at Citi, starting as a FX Trader in Sri Lanka and ending his career there as Global Head (eFX Solutions) in the UK. He also authored a book called “Jaffna Boy” back in 2015 in addition to investing in several start-up companies in Sri Lanka, including being a board member at SenzAgro. He is currently a sales trainer & keynote speaker leveraging his experience and knowledge in building teams that produced over $500 million in annual revenue.
You were at Citi for almost 40 years, which is very much unheard of today where somebody stays at a company for that long. What made you stay?
Citi was a great ride for me. Along the way, I felt like my efforts and value were recognized by management there. I was also afforded the opportunity to learn new skills which then put me in a better position to secure more senior roles. I had wonderful colleagues, which made my time there quite enjoable. Finally, I felt like I was rewarded appropriately both from a financial compensation standpoint as well as with great titles (via promotions). It’s quite difficult to stay at one company for 5 years, let alone almost 40 year without being happy. I also experienced my share of disappointments, but ultimately it was the people that made it a great place to work for me.
Did you find it difficult to manage your life outside of work (ie. family, hobbies, etc.) while taking on high-level management roles at Citi?
Absolutely, especially with all my travelling, late dinners & events. Thankfully I had a wife who supported me through my journey. Also, managing different aspects of your life comes down to prioritization.
Do you feel like there needs to be more diversity in the C-suite and board level based on your own experience?
Yes, of course and we still have a long way to go. A lot of institutions have worked hard on this challenge and have been successful in bringing more diversity within their workforce. One thing I will say is that I’m not a believer in diversity just for the sake of it, including a quota system. I believe in making the work environment attractive enough to bring in the right candidates from a variety of backgrounds who can then excel there. The conditions should create a situation where anybody who comes in should feel like they have been put in a position to succeed.
You had written a book called “Jaffna Bay” back in 2015. What prompted you to write that book?
I wrote this book because I really enjoyed my boarding life at St. John’s College in Jaffna, arguably the best school in the world. I had an absolute blast during this time in my life. I also learned a lot in my time at the school. I wanted people who read the book to get a glimpse of what life was like at the school along with how an experience like that could drastically impact the growth trajectory of an individual, personality-wise.