When Rajesh Gupta tells us that he likes change and fixing things that are broken, we can’t help but wonder how a finance career that has encompassed more than 20 years with General Electric has come to satisfy that appetite.
Certainly, we reason, this number of years with a single company is more likely to accent the resume of a change-averse executive than that of someone who actively pursues it.
However, as we quickly learn, Gupta’s GE years were spent across three continents, and 15 of them involved ever-acquisitive GE Capital.Read More
“Because GE Capital grew from a lot of different acquisitions, each of its new companies would in effect have its own culture—and rather than try to force their own culture on it, GE would instead introduce its leadership training and financial management approaches,” explains Gupta, whose career with GE began in India after he was first hired by a GE joint venture that was shortly thereafter acquired by GE Capital.
“I was asked to join a leadership training program, which basically opened the door to opportunities through which I could take on different roles inside GE,” reports Gupta, whose vocational track quickly found traction inside GE’s M&A and commercial business partnering activities. From structuring new acquisitions to dealing with credit card operations, Gupta tells us, his appetite for change found a wealth of avenues to pursue.
“I was heading down a path that I felt would someday allow me to become a general manager of a GE business unit—but then 2008 happened,” comments Gupta, who notes that the economic downturn of the late 2000s became something of a wakeup call.
“When I looked at my CV, I saw that I had had a career that was difficult to explain to people and that I needed to make a choice rather than continue to straddle the general manager and finance worlds, so I decided to go down the finance track,” recalls Gupta, who in short order was named CFO of a bank owned by GE Capital in the Czech Republic.
“I took hold of the position with both hands,” remembers Gupta, who years later doesn’t attempt to conceal the grave uncertainties of the time. Nonetheless, from that day forward—whether inside or outside of GE—Gupta has always had the CFO title preceding his name.
Adds Gupta: “What became clear to me was that the outside world typically thinks about future roles based on the last role that you occupied.” –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about OakNorth Bank … what attracted you to this opportunity?
Gupta: This was the first time that I was talking to founders who were running the business, and the passion and the energy that they brought was incredible. I was also struck by the fact that there was a very, very, very clear mission, which was, “We are going to serve the missing middle.” These are the clients who are out there who aren’t getting serviced by the big Street banks. There’s an opportunity here to make sure that we can help these firms not just in terms of the availability of funding but also with its timing. This, in turn, contributes not just to these businesses but also to the communities around the places where we work because these firms create employment. So, I was very struck by this.Read More
I spoke to almost 15 people as part of my OakNorth discussion process, and I could see that there was a very varied set of individuals around the table who were all quite passionate, all quite transparent and direct in the way that they spoke about this. They were united by this common and very clear mission. I looked at it, and I said two things to myself. One was that this definitely looked like an interesting place—intellectually stimulating, with huge growth potential as compared to most of the places that I had been in. Also, though, the ideas that Rishi and Joel, the founders, had meant that this could be a journey that could go a decade or two and still find us thinking about new things and innovative ways to do things better. This immediately clicked with me, and that’s when I decided to make the move into OakNorth. It still had the characteristics of my previous company, Kensington Mortgages. It was small enough. I could get my arms around it. I could make an impact. But the pace of growth, the clarity of purpose, and the passion really came home to me.
“Unequivocally, it is all about people and relationships. Ensure you work with and learn from the best people – whether it is your manager, your peers or people who work for you. This is key to career growth; but even more critically puts you in the best frame of mind and raises energy levels for whatever challenge tomorrow brings.” – Rajesh Gupta, CFO, OakNorth Bank
OakNorth Bank | www.oaknorth.co.uk | London, United Kingdom