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26 February 2016

From Banker to Author and Beyond

When he started out in his career, Virendra Nath (MBA 2004) would not have known the extraordinary journey he would embark upon. From the State Bank of India, to an MBA at CUHK, becoming an entrepreneur, and being an author, Virendra is unafraid of a challenge. It’s this spirit of adventure that has brought him from India to Hong Kong, working as an expert for pre-IPO work, business analysis and financing, deal sourcing, and due diligence.

Although Hong Kong has been his adopted home for over 10 years, Virendra (2nd from left) regularly returns to Jhansi in India to see his family

Humble Beginnings

Originally from the north of India, Virendra tried his hand at a range of vocations including flying training, ending up in banking.

“When I was growing up in India, the economy was not that good. It was still coming out of socialism. It was very limited. People used to go to the army or railways or banks, and there were tough examinations,” he says. Virendra took his banking exams and passed them, joining the State Bank of India, where he worked for seven years in Bangalore and Mumbai before being placed in Hong Kong.

The moment was opportune, as it set him upon two important passages in life. Firstly, he met his wife working at the State Bank of India, and secondly it led him to his life-changing study program at CUHK. Seeing all the opportunities in the city, Virendra left the State Bank of India to co-found his company Globalview Investment Limited in 2000, which would lead to a realization that although he was good in banking, he lacked knowledge and experience in finance.

Education a Crucial Career Booster

“I was a banker and was an expert in that side, but not on things like equity, so that was time I realized I should do this business properly,” he says. “At that time I was meeting people and they were all MBAs and CFAs and that was intimidating. The company wasn’t doing well, so I left them to pursue the MBA. I started to realize Hong Kong was one of the very important financial centers, and if I can hang on here I might be able to do something great,” he says.

Ever the social butterfly, Virendra (right) enjoys his exchange student life at the University of Chicago

In 2002, he entered CUHK to study MBA. As part of his degree he undertook an exchange program at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, an experience he says, “I can treasure all my life.”

One of the most attractive features of the CUHK MBA program Virendra discovered was its balance, particularly as networking is a crucial part of any graduate school experience. “I personally felt that the mix of courses was balanced, and we had time to learn other things and enjoy our lives with fun,” Virendra says. And the networking is crucial in the business world ― Virendra often runs into alumni in meetings, offering an element of immediate familiarity and trust.

Virendra reserves very high regard for his professors, many of whom had continuously mentored him. He particularly remembers Prof. Hugh Thomas who helped with book review during the launch of his book, and he often consults Prof. Andrew Chan on various pursuits. As he recalls, when he entered the Global Moot Corp Business Plan Competition at the University of Austin at Texas during his MBA, the program staffs were hands-on throughout, offering crucial support. Having won the Asian leg of the competition with his partner and fellow alumni Mi Jia, Prof. Thomas accompanied him to the Lone Star State for the competition.

Skyway Finance Limited was co-founded by Virendra in 2003 with two partners, including CUHK MBA alumni Mi Jia (right)

Finding His Way in the World

After graduating, Virendra went straight to tackle the bull by the horns, setting up Skyway Finance Limited, a boutique investment banking firm focused on India and China, and Everest Acquisition Corporation in the United States. Virendra immediately found the knowledge and skills he learned at CUHK were put into use. “My opting for MBA was very precise. I was lacking the skills, the tools and the templates, and that’s why I took the MBA. The relevance of this study program has never diminished throughout my life, and it has helped me to impress people. I came from a totally different background than the typical investment banker, so every subject I have studied in MBA has been useful in my career,” says Virendra.

And being based in Hong Kong has been a blessing for his career as well. “The ease of doing business in Hong Kong is unparalleled. It’s simple things like if you want to have five meetings in a day you don’t have to worry about it,” he says.

Virendra presents his book to Dr. Raghuram Rajan (4th from left), the Governor of Reserve Bank of India, India’s central bank, during a ceremony hosted by the Indian Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong

Success As an Author

Ever full of surprises, Virendra has a secret artistic side. Before working in the worlds of banking and finance, he wrote for his school magazine, including poems and short fiction. After moving to Hong Kong, Virendra took a course about writing and how to be an author. He began with short essays, and his interest moved into producing a book. “During my MBA, I was the oldest in my class, he says, “and I had the most experience in the financial field and in particular in banking, so obviously students used to come up to me and ask for my opinion on subjects. And I kept these questions in my mind,” he says. In 2011, he had a shoulder injury that caused him to suffer tendinitis –– during the recuperation time he started writing his book, completing it at nighttime upon recovery.

The result is Out of Aces? Fifty Steps to Financial Acuity, a one-stop reference of 52 chapters covering investment, institutions, instruments and the financial world. “Even people in finance and banking find it interesting, because we are in our field, but often don’t know about the origins of what we are doing ― for instance, how did shares come to being?” he says. Virendra is not stopping there, he has two books in the works, a comedy and a children’s novel that evokes his childhood Indian village world, with snake charmers and other mysterious characters aplenty.

Virendra enjoys the natural beauty of Hong Kong in his leisure time

Life Beyond Banking

Keeping active is a must for Virendra as a distraction from his busy schedule as an author and finance professional. He has loved cricket since he was a young man, and was an avid track and field participant in school. After moving to Hong Kong, hiking became a favorite pastime, a pursuit which he has enjoyed to this day. He also finds time to play the Harmonium, an instrument popular in Indian music.

As the global economic environment is uncertain in 2016, what advice would he offer to students? “Keep on moving, keep on trying things,” he says. “Even if it’s failure at that moment, when you look back, it carries some inspiration, some information, some contacts, so it becomes useful at times,” Virendra says.

Video ― Messages from Our Alumni

As the global economic environment is uncertain in 2016, what advice would he offer to students? “Keep on moving, keep on trying things,” he says. “Even if it’s failure at that moment, when you look back, it carries some inspiration, some information, some contacts, so it becomes useful at times,” Virendra says.

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