Moving to Chicago – The Genesis

This is a series of blogs that talk about my stints in HSBC and how I came to relocate to the US and UK during my tenure with HSBC.

Opportunity Comes Knocking

I was hired into HSBC initially to head up the team of Business Analysts, and named it the Business Consulting and Solutions Group, and soon was given the additional responsibilities by the then CEO, to set up a Global Relationship Management Unit and Corporate Communications. The model was wildly successful and the very idea of using Analysts to build relationships was a first within HSBC’s Outsourcing arm, called the GLT’s (Global Technology Centers).

Managing relationships across boundaries, meant a lot of long haul travel across all continents, and I was more often than not riding on the back of a plane.

The weak spot in the whole relationship structure, even within HSBC was North America, where HSBC had acquired Household Financial Services. Household had been serviced like forever by the erstwhile Kanbay Software HQd in Chicago.

Now Kanbay, with Household becoming HSBC NA, believed that it was an opportunity, straight from heaven, whereby they would be able to penetrate the global HSBC giant, by then the biggest bank in the world (arguably). Well arguably, because the first and second spots kept flipping between Citi and HSBC.

Therefore the powers that be opined that at some stage it would be prudent to bring the Kanbay Relationship Management team, under the purview of HSBC, rather than let them run amuck in HSBC globally.

And that was when opportunity came my way.

Hitherto we had worked under a strange arrangement whereby, an external vendor (strategic partner and a competitor – Kanbay), managed North American  relationships on HSBC IT’s behalf.

Before, I knew it, I was tapped on the shoulder by the then CEO to take on this daunting task. That’s how from Global Relationships I also came to be the point man in managing Kanbay as a vendor and as a partner. So slowly, painfully but surely the structure was put into place, but it’s not going to be easy weaning away both the Household crew and the Kanbay crew from each other. They had years of history and a fantastic rapport.

Therefore, a decision was taken to parachute one of HSBC’s top generals (moi) into the heart of the action and take the battle to the HQ of Kanbay, Chicago.

And that was how he explained it to our management team, and to the wider population as well. So it was a great build up before I went off, but on the flip side, a lot of expectations had been built to succeed in a job that was bound to be demanding, to say the very least.

Once this was socialized within HSBC, the next step was to negotiate my contract and to obtain a valid work permit for the US.

The contract negotiation was a bit of a challenge, as there was no precedent where someone from the nascent outsourcing arm had gone and worked in the US, but it went quite smoothly after the direct intervention of my then boss.

Work Permit Challenges

Obtaining a Work Permit to legally work in the US for a person holding an Indian passport is not always easy, regardless of the fact that I worked for one of the largest financial services companies in the world.

As it turned out our company was on this fast track visa program with the US Consular Authorities, and bad record keeping had made us run afoul and we were suspended from the program, which meant that no longer could we send people to the US at short notice.

Bad for the company but actually turned out to be quite a blessing in disguise.

Our relationship with the US Authorities was not good, and this came to the attention to our CEO, my boss and dear friend. And let me tell you, he’s one guy who will take the bull by the horns. While we were trying to go meet the US Consular Officers, in Bombay, this came to the attention of my Executive Assistant. Well, my ex assistant, since I had allowed her to go work one level above me and go work for the new CEO.

So through the good offices of our Executive Assistant who knew someone at the Consulate in Bombay, we secured a meeting with the top brass.

It was a great meeting, as they were keen to establish a relationship with us, and wondered why no one had been in touch with them before. they advised us of the steps we needed to take immediately and their expectations of us in the future and removed us from the black list immediately.

They asked my boss if they could do anything for us, and to my surprise my boss said, “I ask for only one favor, that I want this gentleman (moi) to land in the US with a valid Work Permit on November 1”, and that’s how despite being on the blacklist, we were able to secure an appointment to get my work permit sorted at really short notice.

All hunky dory right? Wrong! Try getting a visa without a passport in hand.

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