Wisdom Stories Ep.29: Mr Joseph V Mathew


Cultural expectations surrounding the elderly are being challenged today, and with good reason!

While it was the norm to slow down and retreat into a quieter life post-retirement, more men and women are finding purpose and joy in doing the opposite.

WisdomCircle honours such men and women by shining light on their journey through an inspiring series called “Wisdom Stories”. These people have successfully smashed stereotypes, and their stories remind us that life should be lived to the fullest, no matter what age or stage.

Post-nationalisation, the banking sector was in the throes of generational changes in the early 1970s when I joined the State Bank group. The transition from class banking to mass banking was ably led by the Group which practically set the tone and tenor of that transition across the country. Getting groomed in the State Bank stables was undoubtedly the best thing that happened in my professional life.

Government banks had witnessed militant trade unionism all through. As a middle-level manager, I was never the blue-eyed darling of trade union leaders. But driven by youthful idealism and fierce independence, I couldn’t care less. I was occasionally let down by self-seeking bosses. Friends used to wonder why I chose this hard and difficult path. But, as years went by, I was looked upon as one of the most reliable leaders in the organisation, tough yet reasonable and generous.

More than high-flying flamboyant achievers, it was those who worked quietly in the background that had always fascinated me. Men who could plan and visualise and bosses who displayed calibrated risk-taking abilities have deeply influenced me and my career.

I have always stuck to my principles and been my authentic self, without worrying too much about the resultant setbacks. And that has worked in my favour. If I could go back in time and change one thing, I wish I could smile more often, even when being tough and determined!

I retired in 2011, as  Zonal Head of SBI. I would like to summarise my post-retirement life as very ordinary, but always looking outward and trying to help people in my areas of expertise. I have been associated with activities involving home/nursing care and old age homes; spreading awareness around banking habits and digital banking and guiding people around issues involving banks, financial institutions and Consumer Rights bodies.

If you wish to be relevant and taken seriously even after your active years, you have to keep updating yourself and try to understand the changes taking place in your ecosystem. Learn, relearn and update! Nobody holds the monopoly of wisdom. And age doesn’t make you a wise owl.

Joseph V Mathew

Interview Credits: Saonli Sen Choudhury of WisdomCircle

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