Off hours: UAB chief executive doesn’t pull his punches

Paul Trowbridge, chief executive of United Arab Bank, says the key to success is surrounding yourself with people that are better than you.

Paul Trowbridge, CEO of United Arab Bank at the UAB headquarters in Sharjah. Pawan Singh / The National
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Paul Trowbridge is the chief executive of United Arab Bank, a position he took on in 2009. The Australian, from Melbourne, is an economics graduate with a specialisation in microeconomics. He started his career in 1985 with PricewaterhouseCoopers as mergers & acquisitions specialist, and moved on to join Westpac Banking Corporation, Australia’s second largest bank – rated as one of the top banks in the world. He joined Bank of Oman in August 2006 first as general manager in risk management and later as deputy chief executive, before moving to the UAE for his current role. Mr Trowbridge has three children.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

With my work week typically being so busy and demanding, it is important to try and find some time to unwind. I love to read, especially about current events – even when the subject is completely unrelated to what I’m working on. To relax completely, I really enjoy spending time on the beach – which is one of the great features of living in the UAE. I also take a lot of satisfaction out of volunteering and trying to help the community in any way that I can.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

I think it is important to try to keep physically active and thankfully it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I box regularly – though not very well. I also like the challenge of weightlifting.

What can’t you live without?

Given that my hobbies are pretty sporting, I don’t mind admitting that I’m partial to Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

The crucial thing, as I have always considered it, is to surround yourself with smart people. My philosophy is that you should always hire people that are better than you. Of course different people have different skills: some are exceptional at analysing details; others excel in taking a step back and offering a profound view of the big picture. Ultimately you need people whose decision-making and judgment you can trust; people who do not shirk from standing up and making the case for what they believe in, even if that involves challenging the consensus view. And, importantly, people who are not afraid of taking responsibility.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

The best bosses are tough but fair. If you are fortunate to have a mentor that gives you the responsibilities to be able to excel early on in your career, while also providing honest feedback, make sure you make the most of that opportunity. Do not take constructive criticism personally: see it as a challenge, and an essential part of the learning curve. See every setback as an opportunity to learn. Be respectful but not timid. If you believe something is the right thing to do, make your case passionately and seize opportunities to take the initiative.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

I try not to take my work home with me, nor to have it weigh on my mental or physical state. Of course there are very busy times during which that is not always possible. But it is vital that work should not take up your life – that you do not neglect other things you are passionate about. What’s more, switching off from work completely can often be beneficial. It helps you to approach work with a clear mind the following day.

How do you relax after the working day?

I like to hit the gym: boxing and weightlifting are my two favourite activities.

If you weren’t chief executive of UAB, what else would you be doing?

I was born in Australia, a country famous – among many other things – for its cattle ranches. I imagine that if I hadn’t gone into the banking industry, given that I’m someone who has a great affinity for being outdoors and doing physical work, I might be breeding cattle on a ranch in Australia. My favourite place in the world is Zanzibar, the group of islands off the coast of Tanzania. It is home to some really magnificent beaches; I would spend a lot of my free time relaxing there.

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