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Jakarta Post

Batara Sianturi: Teamwork, passion & execution

  • Aulia R. Sungkar

    The Jakarta Post

  /   Mon, August 10, 2015   /  10:09 am
Batara Sianturi: Teamwork, passion & execution

Aulia R. Sungkar

Senior Citibanker Batara Sianturi builds stronger teamwork with his participative management approach.

Sitting relaxed at his office in the South Jakarta Central Business District, Batara Sianturi, the newly appointed chief executive officer Citi Indonesia, smiles benignly.

He has returned to his motherland with a wealth of global banking experience gained during his overseas postings. His decade of international assignments included helming the Philippine and Central Eastern Europe offices.

With an international career at Citibank (Citi) spanning more than 27 years, Batara now leads some 5,000 staff members across the archipelago. As the CEO, he is responsible for all Citi businesses in the franchise in Indonesia.

Despite his strong academic background in engineering, as he has both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the subject, Batara has long had an interest in the world of finance. This later prompted him to pursue a master'€™s degree in finance. He spent all of his academic years in the US.

Regardless of his interest in the subject, his leadership savvy is what has played a greater role in his management success.

As he engaged in a warm chat with The Jakarta Post, the father of three pointed out three elements that highlight his secret strategy in leading such a big organization as Citi '€” teamwork, passion and execution.

'€œIt'€™s always easy to talk about teamwork to achieve your management goal, but it'€™s always harder to build good teamwork. The harmony of solid teamwork is where we rely on each other, we share the same vision and we work toward that particular goal,'€ he asserted.

A good leader in a company is often not the smartest person in the organization. But the most important characteristic needed in any leader is the ability to synergize the different levels of agility possessed by his or her subordinates. '€œThat'€™s why I put teamwork at the top of the list in my leadership strategy. It'€™s all about '€˜we'€™, not '€˜me'€™. We like a superstar, but we prefer a winning team,'€ he added.

Working takes passion to succeed. Regardless of where people work, Batara commented, '€œwe need to be passionate about what we do and about the vision of the work we do. For me, having vision is knowing where you are, where you want to go and how to get there. So, the leader must be able to explain this and put it into action: this is where we are, that is where we want to go and this is how to get there.'€

What differentiates a winning team from a losing team is the execution, the 55-year-old banker further explained. '€œRight now, my focus is to relate execution with ethics. Execution is very important but it must be accompanied by the highest standard of ethics. The harmony of these two is crucial in a business, especially in the banking sector as we are in the business of trust.'€

The banking landscape has changed. In the past, he continued, transparency was mainly aimed at shareholders. '€œAs the world is becoming more connected, information flows very fast. So, in the execution, it is vital that we involve all parties, such as stakeholders, the regulator, the private and public sectors, the community and the media. We need to be transparent and show them that we execute our business operations at the highest ethical standard.'€

To make the most of his strategic implementation of these three elements, Batara uses participative management.

'€œFor me, participative management is crucial in building solid teamwork. It'€™s where a leader must know the '€˜what'€™ and the '€˜how'€™. Sometimes, we focus too much on the '€˜what'€™ and we forgot that the '€˜how'€™ is just as important as the '€˜what'€™. And sometimes, the '€˜how'€™ differentiates the quality of the execution, so in that process a leader must make the team believe in the vision and must lead the way to show the '€˜how'€™. If we put our energy together, then you'€™ll put more resources in ensuring the '€˜how'€™ is executed flawlessly.'€

Maintaining credibility

Citi has had a presence in Indonesia since 1968. Currently, it operates 20 branches in six major cities '€” Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Semarang, Medan and Denpasar.

As one of the largest foreign banks in the archipelago, Citi recorded total assets as of December last year at US$5.2 billion (around Rp 65 trillion).

'€œThe strength of Citibank is its globality. We are the only bank to have a presence in more than 100 countries and operate in more or less 160 countries. Not only does globality provide a network, it also caters to our clients with connectivity in payments and business trade.

'€œGlobality has become one of the trends along with urbanization and digitalization.'€

Heading toward the Asian Economic Community, set to start in December this year, Batara expresses optimism that Citibank is ready to play a role in the community.

'€œLet'€™s say there'€™s a client in the Philippines seeking to expand his business in Indonesia. Citibank Philippines can connect Citibank Indonesia to help expand that client'€™s business in Indonesia. The harmonious relationship between our network and AEC will pave the way for better business expansion opportunities throughout the ASEAN community.'€

Batara further said that maintaining Citi'€™s leadership in credit card and multinational corporate banking is one of his agendas as the CEO.

'€œWe pioneered the credit card business in this country and we want to maintain that leadership in terms of innovation and in terms of more value for credit card products. It'€™s the same with our corporate banking clients. I'€™m confident that I can maintain and possibly take our products to the next level, so long as I stick with the three elements of my leadership strategy I previously mentioned '€” teamwork, passion and execution.'€


Career Highlights

Chief executive officer (CEO) Citi Indonesia (June 2015-present); CEO for the Philippines and cluster head for the Philippines and Guam (2013-2015); CEO for Hungary and cluster head for 12 other countries in Central Eastern Europe (2007-2013); head of consumer bank, Citi Hungary (2005-2007); general manager, overseas mortgages, Citi Australia (1995-1996); various positions, from management associate to director, Citi Indonesia (1988'€“2005).

At Ease

Family ties

Weekends are for my family. My wife and I have been blessed with two sons and a daughter. Nothing is better than spending quality time on a weekend than getting together with my wife, our 19-year-old son and 18-year-old son. Our 24-year-old daughter, the eldest, lives in Europe.

Avid reader

I like to read. Much of my spare time is spent on reading. With today'€™s fast development of the Internet, I'€™ve start reading more online, but I still love the physical form of books. I read a variety of topics, but mostly financial and non-fiction books.

Staying fit

I enjoy sports, especially swimming and running. I don'€™t swim as much as I used to, but I still run on a frequent basis. I do a 10-kilometer run three times a week.

Holiday destinations

Traveling is one way that I appreciate the art of living. Budapest, London and New York are high on my list of my favorite cities. I like exploring big cities with all the amenities to offer.


Jakarta, June 26, 1960.


Bachelor of Science in chemical engineering and polymer science from Case Western Reserve University, US (1979-1983); Master of chemical engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology, US (1983-1984); MBA in finance from Saint John'€™s University (1986-1988).


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