The holder of Undergraduate and Post Graduate degrees from McGill University and the University of Wisconsin in Engineering and Management, Sultan Ali Allana, is a career banking professional with over 30 years of experience in retail, corporate and investment banking. He is the current Chairman of Habib Bank Limited (http://www.hbl.com/), which is the largest bank in Pakistan with over 1,600 branches and a presence in 29 countries around the world and owner at TPS Eastern Africa Ltd.
As Chairman of Pakistan’s largest commercial bank, Sultan Ali Allana is considered to be a leading figure in Pakistan’s financial landscape. Since 2004, he has led the Board of HBL as a representative of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and has the oversight responsibilities for AKFED's investments in Banking, Insurance and Aviation, of which he is a director. Since 1997, Sultan Ali Allana has been serving as a Director of the Tourism Promotion Services Pakistan Limited, the owners and the operators of the Serena Hotels in Pakistan.
He is also on the Board of Directors at Jubilee Holdings Limited, Jubilee Life Insurance Company limited and Industrial Promotion Services (Pakistan) Limited. He was previously employed as Chairman by The First Microfinance Bank and Chief Operating Officer by NIB Bank Ltd. He also has served on the board at Global Securities Pakistan Ltd.
Sultan Ali Allana is also an avid art collector and patron. His late uncle G. Allana, who had an amazing collection, and Sultan Ali used to go through his vast collection of books on places, people and art. It was those early days of his life, he developed a certain level of curiosity for him to learn more about art. Over time, his interest grew and started spending hours visiting museums whenever he travelled abroad for holidays. He enjoyed visiting museums and galleries very much not just to see what is new in the world of art, but also to see what is all there in the world of art.
Subsequently in working life, when Sultan Ali was a junior officer in Citibank, where Gulgee had an account and he was assigned that account, perhaps because no one else wanted to handle Gulgee as he was thought to be demanding and as some would say, somewhat eccentric. Sultan Ali looked forward to Guljee’s visits to the bank and recalls, it was fun and full of life and Guljee’s visits broke the usual monotony of Sultan ali’s workdays.
Once Guljee asked Sultan Ali, when he was going to Zurich for a bank course, to buy him a particular pencil he used for his drawings, it was Caran D’Ache, Prismalo II. They had stopped making the IIs. Sultan Ali looked and looked until he finally found a small shop in the old part of Zurich that carried the stock. He bought as many as he could and sent them to him on his return. That evening, Gulgee visited to Sultan Ali and his wife at their apartment and sat with them until the early hours of the morning.
His first acquisition of art was when he and his wife Sharifa decided to buy a ‘Gulgee’ when they were moving into their own apartment in 1989. They had a choice, between buying a ‘Gulgee’ and sleeping on mattresses or buying beds for their two children and for them. They decided on the mattresses and their children loved it.
Then, there were Jamil Naqsh and Najmi Sura, both artists of national stature and both people of amazing qualities. Sultan Ali got to know them through some friends when he was still at Citibank and have kept up with them since. Sultan Ali and his wife Sharifa are very fond of their work and he believes Jamil Naqsh is a true master of our time.
For Sultan Ali, Ali Imam was his ustad in the true sense. Ali Imam enjoyed teaching and Sultan Ali enjoyed learning. Then there is his friend Iqbal Hassan who is always a step ahead of him and always gets better works of art than he does. Sultan Ali put Jamil Naqsh also in the top three most important people in his grooming process. Jamil Naqsh has taught him much and in some ways, he has perhaps influenced his eye buds in the world of art.
If Sultan Ali likes something and can afford it, he usually buys it. However, if it’s a serious piece of work, he usually consult his wife, whose opinion he greatly value and who has a very good eye and taste for art.
Sultan Ali believes, when you see history and when you look at civilizations that truly flourished, you will realize that art, architecture and other forms such as music, prevailed very widely. Art is an expression of human thoughts and he believes that this form of expression liberates the usual dogmas that constrain human progress.
In today’s time and the world we live in, Sultan Ali believes, it’s the civil society that must take the lead in promoting awareness and spreading knowledge. Corporates who have resources at their disposal and the discretion to follow progressive paths can support and should support civil society initiatives, which are viable, sustainable and have a mass appeal or impact.
Sultan Ali think, unless we have a strong domestic understanding and appreciation of art, there is not much point in trying to create regional or global awareness. It is the home market where we should focus first. We need museums where works can be displayed and shown, we need school curricula that provide young minds exposure to art and culture and we need more in terms of media coverage.
Sultan Ali, who patronize Pakistani artists and as such Pakistani art says there is a wide spectrum that interests us from the Masters to some recent contemporaries. Pakistani art has so much to offer and in all honesty, we don’t have to look to the outside. We have talent and quality in our country.
In recognition of his services to the strengthening of the business and social sector in Pakistan, the Government of Pakistan conferred the Sitara-e-Imtiaz upon him in 2006.