Rajesh Mehta: Citi’s peripatetic transaction banker
Citi’s head of Asia treasury and trade solutions has retired after 40 years at the US bank. He tells Euromoney what he would do if he were a 20-something graduate today, and why it helps to be both a specialist and a jack-of-all-trades in the industry now.
Banking was a very different place when Rajesh Mehta’s began his career. Banking in India then, however – that existed on another planet entirely.
Mehta joined Citi in 1984, a year that saw Los Angeles host the Olympics, the steadily crumbling Soviet empire gain another short-lived septuagenarian leader, and tiny Liechtenstein become the last European country to grant women the right to vote. It was also the year that Wing Commander Rakesh Sharma became the first – and, to date, only – Indian citizen to journey into space.
Mumbai, the city Mehta moved to after graduating from the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, was very different too. Video footage of the time shows a place moving in slow motion. Omnipresent traffic blights the landscape, as it does today. But otherwise, it is a world removed from the hustling, bustling financial hub of 2024.
Mehta had briefly toyed with the idea of joining a Western consumer-goods firm but couldn’t stomach spending five years selling single-use shampoo sachets to hawkers in remote villages. So he chose banking.
Back then, banking was a state-run affair: the first private-sector lender in the modern era, HDFC, would not be formed for another decade.