A Conversation With Wilkes Alumnus Jay S. Sidhu MBA '73
Wilkes University President Patrick F. Leahy hosted a presidential conversation with Jay S. Sidhu MBA ’73, Chairman and CEO of Customers Bancorp, Customers Bank, BankMobile – a division of Customers Bank, and BankMobile Technologies.
The Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership is named in his honor. The event, held in October, was attended by Sidhu School students and faculty as well as other members of the campus community. It offered a unique opportunity to hear about Sidhu’s extraordinary career in the banking industry and to hear his unique perspective on leadership. Sidhu has been honored as Financial World’s CEO of the Year in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and as Turnaround Entrepreneur of the Year.
Words of Wisdom
Sidhu delivered memorable comments and sage advice on a wide range of topics to the audience at Wilkes. Here are a few memorable highlights from Sidhu’s comments:
About what constitutes a slow-growth industry:
“There is no such thing as a slow-growth industry, but there is such a thing as slow-growth leadership.”
About who are the most innovative people in the workforce:
“The most innovative people on earth, in my opinion, are people in their twenties.”
About the difference between managers and leaders:
“Managers look at work. Leaders look at a vision.”
About what book he would recommend to Wilkes business students:
“Jack Welch’s autobiography.” (Note: Welch is the former CEO of General Electric. The title of his autobiography is Jack: Straight From the Gut)
About the subject that all business people should be continuously learning about today:
“Today, the subject you want to be continuously learning about is digitization. We are entering an era when everything will be digitized.”
In this video clip, President Leahy asks Sidhu how he helped lead Customers Bancorp to a position as 35th bank in the nation and the number one bank in Pennsylvania, according to Forbes magazine.
Student Media Perspective
Toni Pennello, senior communication studies major and editor of The Beacon, covered Jay S. Sidhu’s visit. Her story ran in the newspaper’s October 24, 2017, issue. It is reprinted here courtesy of The Beacon.
“Wilkes is the reason I am who I am”
By Toni Pennello
On Oct. 17 at 3:30 p.m., to a full house in the McHale Gymnasium, President Patrick Leahy announced an unusual cell phone policy -- to have them out, to take photos and videos and live tweet an event that he felt was worth utmost celebration.
The occasion was a Q&A with Jay S. Sidhu, 1973 graduate of the Wilkes University MBA program, former member of the Wilkes Board of Trustees, and namesake of the University’s school of business and leadership.
Sidhu is the chairman and CEO of Customers Bancorp and Customer’s Bank, headquartered in Wyomissing, Pa. In January, Forbes ranked Customer’s Bancorp as number 35 out of 100 on their largest banks list. According to a press release on the financial institution’s website, they are also the number one Pennsylvania-chartered bank on the list. With many years of experience in the banking field, he has also won a host of awards.
Leahy began by thanking faculty, alumni, representatives from local businesses and all other members of the crowd for attending.
“In particular, I’m thrilled to have our superstar students join us today for what is, I promise you, a very special day at Wilkes University,” Leahy said.
Leahy pointed out that almost 30,000 people have graduated from the University since its founding in 1933 -- and how special that made Sidhu’s presence.
“I can tell you today that we have with us, quite possibly our most successful alum, or at least one of our most successful alums,” Leahy claimed.
Sidhu, in humility, later rebuked Leahy’s claim.
After Leahy spoke, he invited senior business major Aaron Sadowski to introduce Sidhu. Sadowski has interned at Customers Bank, and is currently treasury and corporate planning project assistant there, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Sadowski read a short biography about Sidhu before introducing him, and touted Sidhu’s leadership skills from firsthand experience.
The Q&A was presented as informal; Leahy and Sidhu sat across from each other at wooden chairs, a pitcher of water on the table separating them, and had a “conversation,” as Leahy put it.
During the talk, Sidhu narrated his family life and humble beginnings in India, and how he came to be the CEO of Customers Bank.
Sidhu also discussed how he found his way to Wilkes, which he said is what changed everything for him.
Sidhu attended business school in India behind his parents’ backs -- they wanted him to be a doctor, or an army officer -- but he knew he wanted to continue his education in the United States.
“My greatest dream was to come to the United States and to study. And so, Wilkes is the reason I am who I am.”
When Sidhu decided to come to the United States for his MBA, he did not have enough money for the application fees.
“I had postcards made up and sent them to many different schools, and Wilkes was one of the schools that responded and sent me an application.”
Sidhu answered questions posed by Leahy and audience members about business and banking, but went further to provide life lessons he has learned; including that he is always working to better himself, that he never goes to sleep without reading and that he never gives up.
“Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up when you are passionate about the clarity of your vision … because there will always be obstacles all along the way. You will have nine out of ten people tell you it will not work, but if you are passionate, never give up.”
President Leahy ended his presidential conversation with Jay Sidhu MBA ’73 with what he calls his “lightning round, ” which 10 questions meant to be answered in brief responses to capture a quick portrait of the person being interviewed.
What career other than banking would you like to attempt?
Do you believe in heroes and if so, do you have one?
Answer:The Dalai Lama
If you could meet anyone, living or decease, who would that be? And what would you ask them?
Answer:The Dalai Lama. What is the secret to a good life?
What characteristic to you admire most and the least in other people?
Answer:Authenticity is the characteristic I admire most and the opposite – fakeness – is what I admire least.
What is your favorite word?
What is your most irrational indulgence?
In the movie City Slickers, they talk about the “one thing.” What is the “one thing” for you?
Answer:To play all the Top 100 golf courses in the world.
What is the lesson folks here should remember from you visit?
Answer:You cannot be a great leader unless you’re a great human being.
What does Wilkes mean to you?
Answer:Everything. It gave me everything, from a basic education to the opportunity to learn about leadership to my career nd my first job. For giving me confidence that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. Everything is possible because of Wilkes.
What does the United States mean to you?
Answer:The best country in the world. The land of opportunity. Without any doubt, I would not have succeeded as I have if I were in India. It is not a land of opportunity. The United States is the best country.