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Justin Trudeau honours Surrey banker for ‘inspiring’ 60 years of service

African field hockey star turned banker Tochi Sandhu reflects on six decades in the industry
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Surrey banker Tochi Sandhu in a May photo, taken at Delta’s Tasty Indian Bistro before Trudeau wrote a letter to Sandhu congratulating him for his 60 years of service. (Photo: Submitted)

A well-known Surrey banker has received a commemorative honour from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his 60 years of service.

Tochi Sandhu, director of commercial business development for locally-based Envision Financial, a division of First West Credit Union, said he feels “very grateful and very blessed” to receive the recognition.

The African field-hockey star turned banker hasn’t taken a single sick day in his career that has spanned six decades but attributes his success to dedication, honesty and also many blessings he’s received throughout his life — one from Mother Theresa herself.

In a letter dated July 27, Prime Minister Trudeau offered Sandhu his “warmest congratulations” for the 60 years of service.

“Your commitment and dedication to the banking industry has been spectacular, but beyond the impressive longevity of service, your career has been marked by its distinction and professionalism,” Trudeau wrote. “As Prime Minister, I would like to humbly thank you for the positive impact you have had on many during your time at the National Bank of Commerce and Barclay’s Bank in Tanzania, and at Khalsa Credit Union and Envision Financial in Canada.”

Sandhu, who lives in South Surrey and works out of an Envision Financial office at Scott Road and 84th Avenue, entered the financial industry in an unlikely way — through field hockey.

When he was 17, he scored a hat-trick during a field hockey game against a Barclays Bank team in Tanzania, where he was born to parents of Indian descent.

A manager from the multinational bank told his father, who was an accountant, that he wanted Sandhu to work for him.

Sandhu continued to play field hockey aside pursuing his new career and became the captain of Tanzania’s national field hockey team.

He represented Tanzania in the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow and was a team official at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and again at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.

In an interview with the Now-Leader, Sandhu said he has received “many blessings” in his life.

A highlight was a chance meeting he with Mother Theresa in the mid-80s as a banker in Tanzania.

“She came in and suddenly the door opens and I said, ‘Oh my god, that’s Mother Theresa,” said Sandhu. “Can you believe she put her hand on my head and said, ‘God bless you, my son.’

“Believe you me, until this minute as I speak to you I still have these blessings,” he continued. “If I am successful in my life it goes to those blessings. Since that day, my life has been unbelievable. I have achieved more than I deserve.”

Sandhu said Mother Theresa had walked into the bank he was managing because she had been given a blank cheque from India and exchange control regulations made it tough to get the money.

She wanted to give the money to missionaries of a charity orphanage centre — which Sandhu had a connection to already.

“One of my projects was to serve meals to the orphanage every Wednesday evening,” he explained. “She said she wanted this money to be in the draft form to the orphanage centre. With my connections I was able to talk to the governor of central bank and got the money…. The governor was so pleased when I told him that Mother Theresa was sitting across the table. He said, “Tochi, do whatever she wants.’”

Since that day, Sandhu says his life has been blessed.

“That was the miracle for me in my life,” he remarked.

Sandhu later joined B.C.’s credit union industry in 1989. He served as CEO of Khalsa Credit Union from 1991 to 2000, then retired and joined Envision in 2001. After well over a decade as Envision Financial’s top commercial lender, assisting businesses all over the Lower Mainland but particularly in Surrey, Tochi moved into his current role where he now focuses on developing new business and sharing his expertise across Envision Financial’s entire commercial banking team.

“My life’s work has been to help people through banking, and my reward is watching the many local businesses that my team serves grow and become more successful,” he said. “The key to success has been the positive attitude, the will to serve, the honesty, the vision. These are the key things in life to be successful, particularly in banking. The honesty, vision, competency, attitude.”

Envision Financial president David Lanphear said “if anyone deserves recognition for a lifetime achievement, it’s Tochi.”

“It’s difficult to comprehend the impact of Tochi’s continuing legacy, not only for Envision Financial’s business members and employees but to the entire community in Surrey, Delta and beyond,” Lanphear said.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, echoed Lanphear’s comments.

“Tochi Sandhu has had a tremendous influence on the development of communities by supporting and building business, throughout his financial career.” said Huberman. “The Surrey Board of Trade congratulates and recognizes Tochi Sandhu as an inspiring leader in Surrey’s business community.”