Customers Bancorp CEO Reflects on Leadership and Having Fun

Jay Sidhu is a man who took chances. As a college student in India, he hitchhiked across Afghanistan, Iran and Europe with a friend, surviving on $100. They were attacked in Afghanistan and later ended up in a Parisian jail cell.

Pursuing his dreams of becoming an American businessman, Sidhu came to the United States with little money to pursue an education at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. But the college was closed for Labor Day weekend when he arrived, and he had to spend a night in a YMCA shelter.

Agility and resilience are big themes in his new autobiography, “Never Ever, Ever Give Up.” Sidhu built a career in banking and by age 49, he was running a Fortune 500 company known as Sovereign Bancorp in Pennsylvania. He describes how the bank specialized in acquisitions of small banks, growing the institution to about $89 billion in assets.

In the podcast, Sidhu talks about the way his early journey shaped him, the three risks in banking and his battle with a hedge fund investor that cost him his job in 2006. Sidhu returned to the industry when he and a group of investors bought a small bank in Pennsylvania and renamed it Customers Bank. That institution went from having about $250 million in assets to $21.7 billion today. Sidhu serves as chair and CEO of Customers Bancorp, the West Reading, Pennsylvania-based holding company. Sam Sidhu, his son, serves as CEO of the bank.

The elder Sidhu never forgot his alma mater. When he was in college at Wilkes, he pledged to repay the school for the gift of an education – which he has done with the creation of the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership, founded in 2004.

This episode, and all past episodes of The Slant Podcast, are available on BankDirector.com, Spotify and Apple Music.


Naomi Snyder


Editor-in-Chief Naomi Snyder is in charge of the editorial coverage at Bank Director. She oversees the magazine and the editorial team’s efforts on the Bank Director website, newsletter and special projects. She has more than two decades of experience in business journalism and spent 15 years as a newspaper reporter. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.