SDSU Alum Gets to the Truth in Kazakhstan
When Michael Eggleton ('92, MSA) accepted the position as chief executive officer Eurasian Bank JSC, he faced an uphill battle in the court of public opinion. The bank, which is based in Almaty, Kazakhstan, had seen its previous CEO accused (and eventually convicted) of embezzlement from another bank and at least three other Kazak banks saw losses in the billions through internal corruption.
In order to regain the public's trust and stop the financial losses at the bank, Eggleton took the unprecedented step of bringing a polygraph machine into the offices and testing employees. According to Eggleton this was done for two reasons. "One was to make a statement to investors that we were serious about taking responsibility for our business operations," he said. "Two, we wanted to make a point to the staff that we will not tolerate decisions that are not in the interest of the bank."
The polygraph tests are entirely voluntary for employees, however, employees who choose not to take the test are not eligible for promotions or bonuses. Eggleton is not left out of the process and he takes the test once a year.
Each day after I earned my degrees, there were still many lessons to learn. It is important to never stop learning.
Kazakhstan is a long way from where Eggleton started his career in San Diego as an accountant with PwC (formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers) in the early 1990's. The San Diego native enrolled in the graduate business program at San Diego State because he "wanted to further my education in the evening and I chose SDSU due to the convenience and their reputation."
"My education provided me with a technical base with which to embark on a career," he said. "Each day after I earned my degrees, there were still many lessons to learn. It is important to never stop learning."
Eggleton earned his Master of Science in Accountancy degree from SDSU in 1992 and worked for another year in San Diego before transferring to PwC's in Moscow. After PwC, he worked at Credit Suisse, Merrill Lynch and Trust Investment Bank before being named CEO at Eurasian Bank in 2009 – the same year he initiated polygraph testing at the bank.
The action seemed to have an immediate impact. The bank showed a loss in 2009 and the organization lost over 600 employees that year, but they turned a profit in 2010. In 2013, the bank's average return on equity rose to 23 percent or greater since 2010.
Success means hard work, willingness to take risks and a little luck. Do not hesitate if someone you respect offers you a new opportunity.
Living in Kazakhstan is not without its challenges. Eggleton does not speak the local language, Kazakh, but does speak some Russian which is widely spoken in the region. He also needs bodyguards on occasion, but says he generally doesn't "have any overriding security concern greater than what I would have in the USA. I need bodyguards during some periods, but I do not have them on a full-time basis."
Finding new challenges and risk taking are also what Eggleton advises today's SDSU students to do in order to find success. "Success means hard work, willingness to take risks and a little luck," he said. "Do not hesitate if someone you respect offers you a new opportunity. Combine this with hiring people smarter than you are and you will be in a position to move your career forward more often than you would expect."