Is white hair enough for management?



The world is changing very fast and the ability to make accurate decisions quickly is becoming ever more complicated.

Traditionally, the world has seen managers of at least 50 years of age, since they would have spent many years within the industry and possibly within the same company, which one would expect would translate into good candidacy for board membership.

Technological innovation beginning in the early 2000s changed that trend, since many of the largest innovative companies have been founded by young entrepreneurs. For instance, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is 32 years old; Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page are 42 and 43 years old respectively.

First of all, experience gained only through years is invaluable and hard to ignore, and it may be important in traditional businesses such as banking, insurance, retail, etc.

But think about FinTech.

FinTech is actually a candidate for replacing a traditional industry, banking.

Many FinTech companies in the US and UK have quite young founders.

TransferWise in the UK is one of them. It is a very good candidate to replace the telegraphic transfer and foreign exchange space traditionally dominated by banks with a much cheaper and more efficient system.

Its founders are Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus. Kristo is 36 years old and Taavet 35.

Their motto is: “No skyscrapers, no suits. Just like-minded people everywhere, connected by TransferWise.”

I remember a bank CEO being asked about a possible big merger with another bank. He replied: “There is no need to merge with a traditional bank now. If there were a merger opportunity, it would be with Apple, Google, or another IT company.”

Age may bring wisdom, but it is no longer only age and experience that define senior management. Having said that, they are still a part of the equation, but a less dominant part nowadays.

No matter what age you are, it all comes down to the ability to update yourself. On top of that, being in a job you enjoy matters, rather than simply making a living and having an endless desire to progress your career.

If you have a wealth of experience with a non-growth mind-set and a lot of white hair, you are definitely out of the game.

Even if you are not yet, you will be.

Just like the many.

All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan


How EU lost Turkey?


I was lucky to attend one of the most established schools in Istanbul, Nisantasi Isik Lisesi, from Kindergarten to High School.

The school was founded in 1885 in Thessaloniki by teacher Mustafa Kemal Ataturk; it then moved to Istanbul after some years, as the war made it impossible for the school to operate in Thessaloniki.

It is a secular and democratic school which has developed many successful businessmen, academicians, politicians and many other public figures in all walks of life.

As a consequence, I grew up in a secular and modern environment with European Turkish values. During my time at High School, this was not considered at all unusual. It was standard. We always felt that we were part of Europe.

When I graduated from High School in 2001, Istanbul had a population of less than ten million.

I would say Istanbul was just another European city in my childhood, with a mix of oriental and western history and some beautiful landmarks.

2005 was an important year for Turkish society, since Turkey’s accession talks were about to start. I remember attending many talks on this topic just before going to London for my postgraduate studies.

After completing my studies in London, I remember feeling that I was missing out on something important, as Turkey continued to grow at a tremendous rate and I was spending my time in London. Actually, many people shared my impulse and returned to Turkey between 2007 and 2011.

And then things started to change dramatically. The economy continued to perform relatively well, but the almost double digit growth was gone. In the meantime, the EU accession talks failed to get anywhere.

Out of 35 chapters, only one was closed. What did Turkey lack that Poland, Romania, Bulgaria and other countries did not?

France, Germany, Holland and Austria always looked upon Turkish accession to the EU with suspicion. Whilst they have some relevant points and valid concerns, I believe there was a degree of unnecessary prejudice against Turkey and even today, in 2016, this is a valid observation.

And now we are at this unpleasant juncture.

Even though, geographically, part of Turkey is in the European continent, Turkey is no longer looking towards the west. This is not the choice of Turkish politicians and the Turkish population, but it is a result of the relentless and baseless efforts of many EU countries.

This will undoubtedly have significant consequences for Turkey and the EU in the near future. In addition to this stretched relationship, it does not really help to have the EU parliament deciding on sensitive issues in Turkish internal politics, either.

Elif Safak, a famous Turkish novelist and the author of Bastards of Istanbul, published a new article in the Financial Times to appease my fellow British citizens, declaring that Turkey no longer wants to be more European, but actually less.

Today, the estimated population of Istanbul is around 17 million, and I keep asking:

Wouldn’t the EU be stronger and safer with a strong Turkey?

Wouldn’t it be a very good example for the rest of the Muslim world?

Wouldn’t Turkish accession prove that the EU is a multicultural and diverse society rather than a so-called Christian club?

There is no doubt that a lot of people will be affected by these decisions. Unfortunately, the most affected is the secular and modern Turk who has so far advocated European values and democracy. Some of these Turks have already left, and many of them are considering leaving the country.

It is painful to feel that you are being abandoned by the people and the institution that you have most trusted and supported throughout your life.

Best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan

Are you too busy to innovate?



Life is becoming very demanding and most of us have a heavy schedule to combat every single day.

On top of our business schedule, we have personal commitments such as family (the most important commitment!). But, unfortunately, our time is limited.

Every single week, we have only have 168 hours.

If we simply assume that every healthy human being has to sleep seven hours a day, then we consume 49 hours of 168 hours in bed. In other words, roughly 30% of our time is gone without doing anything.

It is even more scary if we continue to add our other commitments such as a daily job. An ordinary full time employee spends 8 hours a day in the office, whereas this figure can easily go to up to 12 hours a day for more demanding jobs such as banking!

I will take the average of those and that translates into another 50 hours. Another roughly 30% is gone!

Commuting to our jobs takes another vital part of our time.

According to a research, the average commute time per day in Jakarta is 42.1 minutes, in Moscow 43.1 minutes, in London 41.2 minutes, in Milan 40 minutes and in Amsterdam 37.5 minutes.  Since you have return where you have come from, you have to multiply these figures by two.

It will take 70 minutes on average for a commute each day, which translates into 350 minutes. In other words, almost another 6 hours are gone per week while commuting. (I believe this figure is quite conservative since I know many people who spend a minimum of two hours in traffic in London and Istanbul.)

So, finally, we are left with only 63 hours of personal time out of 168 hours per week.

These 63 hours are very crucial. You have to decide how to use them. You can watch TV, spend the time with your family, read, go jogging, etc.

I believe how you personally choose to spend this valuable time is a main factor in how your future will look!

First of all, you have to switch off from your work during this time!

I know it is not easy.

This is especially the case if you are an entrepreneur. Being an entrepreneur is not a 10 hours a day job, as it is a lifestyle that requires regularly working during nights and weekends.

The challenge faced by  even our smartest and hardworking friends is that we all have a limited bandwidth. Once this bandwidth is used, it is not possible to be innovative or be efficient.

Even if we are getting a lot of chances in life, this full bandwidth prevents us from leaping a step forward. This is the main reason that switching off is important.

Reading (especially on different subjects), observing our surroundings, travelling and networking with people is the key to understanding and learning what we currently are not doing and to innovate. Otherwise, like the cartoon above, even if we are offered the wheel, we will refuse it at our own expense, nobody else’s!

Finally, being left with 37.5% of the total time is not too bad! It is the personal choices that make us different and we have the power to be innovative.


Is your mindset ready for that?


All the best from Singapore.

Sukru Haskan
Twitter: @sukru_haskan