As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Bal Krishen.
Mr. Bal Krishen is the Chairman and CEO of Century Financial. As a leader of the company, he is tasked with crucial responsibilities of ensuring the company’s continued success and maintaining the firm’s impressive track record, developing strategies for rapid progress aligned with the company’s vision and overseeing every business aspect of the firm.
Mr. Bal Krishen joined Century Financial in 1999 as a Dealer, where he assisted in the supervision of all dealing transactions across major global exchanges. He later rose to the positions of Trader and Financial Analyst. Never the one to be satisfied with his achievements, Mr. Krishen went on to become Head of Investment, Associate Director, Director and ultimately, the Chairman & CEO. His meteoric rise has made him a perfect role model for aspiring individuals.
With over 20 years of financial expertise across various investment fields covering bonds, real estate, equities, currencies, commodities and capital appreciation products, Mr. Krishen is a pioneer in mapping and developing investment strategies that have proved to be very successful.
He is a successful entrepreneur and a seasoned investor himself who understands mature businesses and start-ups alike. He has developed astute skills and business acumen fostered over years of experience. He knows how to grow businesses, build timeless relationships and empower people around him. His quest for perfection in every aspect of the company’s business is the cornerstone of the progress made at Century. Mr. Krishen is also actively devoted to philanthropic causes which arehighlighted by his support of various NGOs, which promote human welfare.
He is a visionary, managing the present with an eye on the future of the company and an inspirational leader who is at the heart of the company’s core values.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I started my career in the hospitality industry in the UAE, where I learned the basics of people management and the importance of customer delight. Prior to that, I had my own small business venture back in India that shaped my entrepreneurial skills.
In 1999 while working within the hospitality industry, one day I met Mr. Suliaman Baqer Mohebi, the then chairman of Century Financial. Impressed with my service and attitude, he requested me to join his company. I started as a Dealer, where I assisted in the supervision of all dealing transactions across major global exchanges. I later rose to the position of Trader and Financial Analyst and eventually went on to become Head of Investment, Associate Director, Director and ultimately, the Chairman and CEO
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
More than the mistakes, there are a few interesting incidents that I would like to share. My career path has been a learning process, but I’d say the most interesting story relates back to the early days of my career and how I actually got the job at Century Financial.
I grew up in a modest family in a small district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir and didn’t have much knowledge about finance and stock markets. During my earlier days in Dubai, I was in contact with a bank manager who suggested that I try my luck in a financial institution as he was very impressed by my math skills and ability to grasp and understand financial technicalities.
Taking his advice, I worked on my resume and applied for a post in Century Financial. However, landing a job at Century Financial was not easy since I did not have much experience in the field initially. But I didn’t let the obstacle discourage me. Instead, I came up with an outrageous plan. I stood outside the Century Financial office with a placard saying that I was willing to work for free for six months. I was determined to get into this field and hungry to learn more. My stunt attracted the attention of our earlier chairman Mr. Sulaiman Baqer Mohebi, who saw the potential in me and hired me.
This taught me to be persistent in what I want to achieve and the importance of working hard.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
Since the time I have joined the company, Century has been committed to providing a superior, personalized customer experience, empowering clients through education, training, and support.
Century Financial was founded to offer investors, the opportunity to invest in global financial markets through dedicated services, diversified products and the latest technologies. Through 30 plus years of growth and development, our vision has always been to be the pioneers of global financial markets in the region making investments simple and accessible through a highly customer-centric approach.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
The number one principle I follow is to “Focus on learning to build on performance.”
Today, employees work in multi-cultural settings and for many, this might be their first time interacting with colleagues from different geographical areas and socio-economic backgrounds. All employees value professional development, therefore investing in team-building activities, or hosting in-office training sessions can reinforce a positive work culture. We run a market-linked dynamic business and the very nature of our business demands consistent learning and development. It is my personal realization that the current fast-moving arena will only support those who are quick learners, always prioritize, and own continuous learning as their primary tool for growth. Therefore, emulating the habit of learning and refreshing the knowledge base is the focus for both self and the team working for the organization.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
In the current Covid-19 pandemic, seamless business continuity has been the single most challenge for us and I am sure for most of the companies across the globe. As a socially responsible company, Century Financial places a strong emphasis on the health of our employees as well as our customers. Way before the actual government restrictions & lockdown, we had deployed a robust and employee-friendly remote working strategy that not only enabled us to continue serving our clients efficiently but also protected our most valuable asset — our employees and their families too.
As an added measure, we have also restricted business travels, external training programs, and one-on-one client meetings completely. We have enhanced the capacity of our servers to deal with the rise in data traffic.
We have provided unlimited data and mobile plans to serve our customers better. In addition, our front desk and customer service staff are using Cisco’s softphone systems, which enables them to make and receive calls directly from their computers, no matter where they are based. Using web-based video solutions, separate virtual team rooms have been created for the company’s management and various departments for ensuring ongoing and efficient decision-making.
Our strategic initiatives do not stop there. Our in-house Customer Relationship Management software is now available via the internet with enhanced security features. This ensures that our employees don’t face any difficulty in communicating with customers for their work.
Those who need to access their office workstation and finance platforms are given a secure VPN connection. On the corporate level, we have adopted a Remote Working Policy/Code of Conduct to ensure security as well as privacy of company data.
Some of the requirements of our policy are knowing where and whom to report to for any incident, following instructions for system updates and security patches. To counter the threat of phishing attacks on our computer systems, employees have been adequately briefed on various measures on how to protect data and their systems and the efficient use of the company network.
The system also records employee availability during normal business hours and ensures all work time is properly recorded.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
Below are a few of my top tips to cope with anxiety due to the current situation faced by all of us.
- Relax, Breathe and Meditate
- There is a lot of misinformation being reported in the news or through social media. It is important to limit the intake of news and stick to only trusted and authorized sources to avoid unnecessary panic and anxiety
- Use this time to reconnect with friends, family and loved ones. With multiple video calling and chat options, it is easy to stay connected. Friends and family offer comfort and support, which can help a lot during such stressful times.
- Eat healthily and maintain a routine for exercise for physical and mental wellbeing
- Developing the right mindset through continuous learning. Setting a regular work pattern should help stay more focused, motivated and productive.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
In the post COVID scenario, the entire crux of the debate will shift towards automation and other means by which the human contact is kept at a minimum and at a considerable distance. This is likely to have far-reaching effects on existing business & trade supply chains. Well established PE players & angel investors are likely to put their eyes on the upcoming nascent start-ups who provide a value proposition on this front. As an example, China, which is the industrial powerhouse of the world, will likely see increased investments on the technological & investment front as industry players from world over look towards China & other cheap labor Asian destinations in implementing quality & safety standards for bulk manufacturing & servicing. The global economy post-COVID is likely to see producers as well as consumers of products & services taking extreme precautions. World economies are likely to be more agile & protective of their own population first.
Looking at industry-specific opportunities, companies present in online tech, gaming & automation front could be the immediate gainers. Tech companies in the US continue to dominate the current stock market recovery with Nasdaq 100 index, which has recovered 90 % of its current downfall. Other major US indices like US 30 & SPX have recovered roughly 60 % of their overall decline.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
As we grapple with the disruption COVID 19 has brought into our lives, there are some significant changes all of us are experiencing, which will impact across key sectors, some for years, and some forever, thus making it The New Normal.
Acceleration of digital lives: Undoubtedly, COVID 19 is transforming how we lead our daily lives and therefore how businesses are run across sectors. Here are some examples
Retail: Thousands of customers who shied away from online grocery buying are soon adopting this new experience and are quite liking it. Online grocery businesses have witnessed phenomenal growth during this lock-down.
The future is Online. So while the overall eCommerce businesses across sectors are witnessing triple-figure growth since COVID 19, how quickly the multi-channel players phase out their physical store presence and strengthen their technology and supply chain capabilities to fulfill to customer expectations online, will be the winners
Education: This sector has undergone the biggest change, only second to Grocery shopping. While millions of students from primary to advanced studies are forced to learn online and teachers and tutors had to quickly adapt content, methods and tools to teach effectively in what we call ‘a 2D world’
Healthcare: With hospitals and clinics focused on treating Covid19 patients, leading brands are quickly moving to Telehealth/telemedicine as patients choose to consult and be treated online rather than spending hours at clinics or hospitals.
The must-have vs good-to-have: As with every economic depression or recession, the world is forced to evaluate and choose between needs and wants. The longer these spells last, the more we tend to let go of the good-to-haves. Humans are social by nature and hence the transition from the current social distancing back to socializing of the past is a matter of time. All the excesses with an attitude to ‘live for today’, which resulted in limitless holidays, to overcrowded wardrobes to cluttered homes to weekly brunches, will take a back-seat as we will value savings and liquidity more than ever in these uncertain times.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
We at Century have always given special focus towards clients’ actual investment requirements & the means by which we can help them achieve it. Proper value advising & sound risk management have always been at the heart of our organization’s goal. In turbulent times like these, we have seen a number of big hedge funds as well as retail clients getting busted owing to bad risk practices & broker mishaps. As something we have been doing in the past, we will continue to advise our clients in the most transparent manner by inculcating a spirit of disciplinism so that our clients’ wealth is not just protected but also grows in a healthy manner.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I quote Sir Richard Branson
“To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas and focusing on the essentials.”
I believe in becoming a better version of self each day, build my strengths and work on my weaknesses, everything else will just fall in place.
How can our readers further follow your work?
You can connect with me through Linkedin:
Or Century Financial: